Roasted Poblano and Corn Guacamole

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Let’s be honest with each other and get this out into the open.  Food is the perfect companion to football and beer.  Sundays like today are begging for a cold one and some delicious food.  Don’t get me wrong, I love watching football with my guy, cheering on our team.  But I love having lots of food options for us during the weekends when there’s so many different games to watch.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

This is just a dressed up version of guacamole, and it almost doesn’t even need a recipe!  But I’ll give you one as a reference.  Poblanos can be a bit tricky, much like jalapeños.  You can never be certain how spicy they be until you eat it.  This is why it’s so important to taste as you go.  I roasted my poblanos on our grill, because we have an induction range, but if you have a gas stove, you can roast them over the flames.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Roasted Poblano and Corn Guacamole

4 soft avocados

2-3 poblanos

2 limes

1 cup sweet corn

handful of fresh cilantro

salt & pepper

Roast the poblanos over an open flame.  Place into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap while cooling.  The plastic will trap the heat and help the skins to steam making it super easy to peel.  Roast the corn over the flame as well, or sauté in a pan over high heat if using frozen or canned corn.  Cut the avocados in half and remove the pits.  Scoop out avocado and mash with a fork.  Once the poblanos are cool, peel and remove the seeds.  Cut into a small dice and add to the mashed avocados.  Cut the corn off the cob and add to the avocado mixture.  Roughly chop cilantro (optional, I know it’s soapy to some).  Juice the limes starting with one.  Make sure to taste as you go along.  If this will be sitting out for a bit, make sure to add a bit more lime juice to keep the color.  As always, season well.  If you’d like, you can also add a pinch of coriander and cumin to bump up the flavor even more.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Because there’s lots of poblanos and corn, I didn’t add tomatoes to this guacamole like I usually do.  You could definitely still add tomatoes and blistered cherry tomatoes would taste so good with the roasted veggies.  I love the way blue corn tortilla chips look next to guacamole and they taste great too!

Go Lions!

Kale & Avocado Caesar Salad

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Fall always seems like a chaotic time, even if you don’t have little ones heading to school.  With football always on, pumpkins and apples to pick, winterizing to prepare for, it can sometimes be difficult to eat well.  This salad is one of my go to meals, especially after eating football food for a weekend.  It’s super simple and very easy to make your own.  And it looks almost too pretty to eat!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

To start, you’ll need kale (I usually buy the pre-cut bagged stuff), tomatoes, crusty bread, avocados, a good hard cheese (I love pecorino or parmesan in this), and your favorite caesar dressing.  I’m a huge fan of Marzetti’s Simply Dressed Caesar dressing.  It has great flavor and it has no preservatives! And it has anchovies which makes it a true caesar.  Make sure to wash the kale really well, lots of dirt likes to hide in the crevices.  Cut your bread into bite-size pieces and toast until crunchy.  Halve or quarter the tomatoes, depending on the size.  Toss the kale with a good amount of dressing.  I like to do this first so that the kale has time to soften a bit.  Add in the tomatoes, croutons, avocado chunks, and shredded cheese.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

This is a great dish because it’s full of fiber and great nutrition while still making you feel full.  If you need to make this into more of a meal, its great with chicken, steak, or even bacon bits on top!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Enjoy!

Lemonade: For When Life Gives You Lemons

With summer winding down, I’m trying to recap all of my favorite summer recipes.  One that I love, especially when it’s hot outside, is fresh lemonade.  It’s super simple and is a lot better for you than store-bought.  If you want to get into the nitty gritty of what’s really in your lemonade and how terrible it is for you, read it here.  It’s disgusting.  While I know that you can’t possibly make everything from scratch, this is super simple and easy and you can control the sweetness and flavor.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

 

Making your own lemonade is a great way to control the amount of sugar your family is consuming.  You can even change the type of sugar you use.  The sweetener in this recipe is known as simple syrup which is also a common ingredient in a lot of mixed drinks.  You can purchase simple syrup in any grocery store, but please don’t.  You are over-paying for sugar and water, and probably some kind of preservative.  Simple syrup is equal parts water and sugar, brought to a simmer over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.  You can use granulated sugar or coconut sugar or raw sugar, or what ever you’d like.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Lemonade

6 lemons

1 1/4 cup simple syrup

5 1/2 cups water

Juice the lemons, taking care to strain well.  Six lemons should yield around 1 cup of juice.  If you use bought lemon juice, you might need more simple syrup.  Combine the lemon juice, simple syrup, and water in a large pitcher.  This should yield about 7 cups of lemonade, which is quite a bit, but you can mix it with iced tea arnold-style or add vodka happy hour-style.  Add plenty of ice and enjoy!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Grilled Peach Bruschetta

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Well folks, nows the time to soak up the last flavors of summertime.  Before you know it, kids will be back in school, leaves will be falling, produce will be dwindling at the markets, and peach season will be replaced by apples.  So, while your grill is still out, and those peaches are waiting to be used, try out this recipe!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Grilled Peach Bruschetta

1 crusty baguette

6 peaches, halved

1 small yellow onion

1 pint cherry tomatoes, red or yellow

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 clove garlic

2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for brushing

5 leaves fresh basil

salt and pepper

Preheat your grill to medium high heat, aim for 350-400 degrees.  Brush the peach halves with olive oil.  Thinly slice the baguette with a serrated knife.  Dice the yellow onion and sweat in a small pan.  Cook until they start to caramelize.  Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and mince the garlic.  Thinly slice the basil.  Combine the tomatoes, garlic, onions, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, basil, and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Grill the peaches carefully, starting with the cut side down.  Grill the baguette on both sides until crisp.  The peaches are ready when they start to get softer and juicy.  Removing the skins is optional, then dice the peaches so they are similar in size to the tomatoes.  Add the peaches to the rest of the mixture and combine well.  Taste and adjust the salt and pepper if needed.  Spoon over the baguette slices.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Now, if you have an inordinate amount of peaches, you can avoid the tomatoes all together and go full peach.  I also love to use blueberry balsamic vinegar from the Olive Cart.  It just adds a nice fruity flavor that compliments the peaches.  This dish is a great appetizer to kick off an end of summer get-together.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Enjoy!

Blackberry Cucumber French 75

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Trust me, I know this sounds weird but it’s an excellent combination.  The cucumber lends a fresh lightness to the blackberry and the gin just kicks it up a notch.  There are a couple ways you can play this.  The first time I made this drink, I sliced the cucumber thinly and added it to the glass that already had a couple blackberries muddled.  Then I added the gin and topped it off with bubbly.  If you are making this for a crowd, try the recipe below!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

As you all know, the bubbly pictured above is one of my go tos, and it’s easy on the wallet.  French 75’s are one of my very favorite drinks.  Traditionally, it contains gin, simple syrup, lemon, and bubbly.  Gin has that herbaceous quality that lends itself well to this version.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Cucumber-Blackberry French 75

1 pint blackberries

1/2 cup simple syrup

1 english cucumber

1 lemon, zested

bubbly (prosecco or champange)

gin

Combine the blackberries, lemon zest, and simple syrup in a blender, saving a few for garnish.  Strain well and reserve.  Using a peeler, peel the cucumber into strips or slice thinly on a bias.  Pour a tablespoon of blackberry-simple syrup into each glass.  Add the cucumber garnish to the bottom of each glass.  Add 1 ounce of gin and top with bubbly.  Be careful not to pour too quickly because the bubbly will bubble more than usual because of the blackberry and cucumber.  Also, it will help the bubbly to float, making an appealing look in the glass.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Cheers!

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

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“Life: a constellation of vital phenomena—organization, irritability, movement, growth, reproduction, adaptation.”-pg. 184

This book fell into my lap unexpectedly.  On my maiden visit to my new local library, I came across this book.  I always pick up way too many books (at least four) on every trip.  The cover of this book as well as the title appealed to me immediately, which I know is a terrible stereotype.  However, this system has proven effective for me.

Taking place during the war in Chechnya in 2004, and several years prior, this novel cleverly tells the tale of hardship, love, family, and consequences.   Before reading this book, I’d never heard of Chechnya or knew anything about the wars in Russia.  This really opened my eyes to hardships that are faced around the world much like The Leavers by Lisa Ko and :I am Malala: by Malala Yousafzai.

Each character that Marra creates is expertly developed in just enough time to truly add to the storyline.  I loved his writing style in that he bounces around between one year and the next, in an efficient and elegant way.  He captures the struggle, the tough decisions that need to be made, and the terrible pain that accompanies wartime.

This novel truly floored me.  I was hooked from the first chapter, and could not put it down.  Even after I finished it, I found myself thinking about it.  If you enjoyed reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer, you will love this book.

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“As a web is no more than holes woven together, they were bonded by what was no longer there.” -pg. 63

Enjoy!

Mimosas: Otherwise It Would Just Be Juice

It’s only Tuesday, but I can’t be the only one dreaming about the weekend.  Brunch is a good idea year-round, but summer is almost begging us to invite our friends over, make some delicious food, and pop some bottles.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Now, I’m sure that if you’re reading this, you know how to make a good mimosa.  Or you know how to drink good mimosas.  But I have some tips and tricks for making a great mimosa bar, and a fantastic mimosa.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Now, most importantly, you will need decent bubbly.  Choose from prosecco, Champagne, sparkling wine, or anything with actual bubbles and alcohol.  My go-to is prosecco, especially since I tend to drink dryer wines.  If you have buckets of cash lying around, empty them out and buy yourself some fancy Champagne from Champagne!  My favorite brand of prosecco is Freixenet, however I also like the Belletti Brand shown below and both options are very affordable.  Keep in mind that the juices will add sweetness and you don’t want the finished beverage to be too sweet.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Next, you’ll need fruit/mix-ins and juices.  My go-to choices include fresh berries, pomegranate juice, grapefruit juice, and the classic orange juice.  Fresh fruit is always a good choice, as is citrus segments.  Think raspberries, blackberries, pomegranate seeds, strawberries, cranberries, currants, grapefruit, orange, blood orange.  Now, you can go crazy with juices.  I usually have orange juice, pomegranate juice, grapefruit juice, mango juice, pineapple juice and anything else you can think of juicing.  The best part about parties with mimosa bars, is that everyone gets to make the exact drink they want, and they can also try new combinations!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Ratios are also very important when discussing mimosas.  I generally stick to a 1:3 juice to bubbly ratio.  My guests have never complained.  Also, the order in which you add the items to the glass is important.  You want to add the juice first, then when you add the bubbly, it will mix together nicely.  If you add the fruit before the bubbly, it will cause an absurd amount of excess bubbles to form, so its better to garnish afterwards.  You don’t want to run out of anything, so 3 juice options should be enough, and buy enough bubbly knowing that you will get about 6 mimosas per bottle.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

So dust off your champagne flutes, call your friends, and stock your fridge!  Also, I’m now available for left-handed modeling gigs.

Cheers!

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Photography by Allyson Regan (who loves mimosas BTW)

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

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Strawberry season in Michigan is so fleeting that my tiny apartment-sized freezer is full of the sweet gems.  The great thing about freezing them, is that even if you don’t have time to bake with them when they are in season, you can just pull them out of the freezer when you have time!  One of my favorite ways to enjoy strawberries when they are in season is pairing them with a flaky crust and sour-tart rhubarb, also from Michigan.

Mastering the art of the ideal pie crust can be tricky and frustrating.  As someone who has made a couple of gross pies in her day, I have found a recipe and a couple tried and true tips that work for me.  Some of the expertise comes with experience, and working with your specific flour, altitude, water, etc.  Many experts say that it’s easiest to make your dough in the food processor, however, I’m a firm believer that the blades ruin the flakiness that is key to good crust.

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My go to pie crust recipe can be found in Kate McDermott’s fantastic cookbook, Art of the Pie.  It can be found on page 61 and you’ll only need flour, salt, butter, and water.  Now, you’re your own person, so use any pie crust you feel comfortable with.  If pie makes you uncomfortable, buy this book and use this recipe.  I’m not going to include her recipe on here, because if you are committed to good making good pies, you really should have her book in your cookbook library.  Also, she has so many other great recipes and tips that are very valuable.  I would recommend buying a marble rolling pin.  It helps to keep the dough colder, keeping the butter inside the dough solid until you bake the pie.

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The filling recipe that I use is adapted from Kate’s recipe found on page 250.  I like to keep my fillings simple to let the gorgeous flavor of the just picked fruit shine through.  Just combine the ingredients below and let them cook down inside the pie.  For this pie, I didn’t pre-bake the pie crusts before putting in the filling, like some recipes call for.  It does take a little over an hour for this pie to bake.  I cover the pie with tin foil for the first 20 minutes to help the filling to begin to set.  Uncover for the rest of the baking process.  If you notice that the crust is getting too brown towards the end of baking, just re-cover with foil.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Filling

4 cups of strawberries, quartered

2 cups of rhubarb, sliced

1 cup of sugar

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup flour

Enjoy!

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The Call of the Wild by Jack London

So this story takes place in Alaska so it might not be the best summer read, unless you’re very overheated and want to pretend your brain is frozen.

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“Deep in the forest a call was sounding, and as often as he heard this call, mysteriously thrilling and luring, he felt compelled to turn his back upon the fire and the beaten earth around it, and to plunge in to the forest, and on and on, he knew not where or why; nor did her wonder where or why, the call sounding imperiously, deep in the forest.”-pg. 57

The Call of the Wild tells the story of Buck, removed from his cushy life in California, and finds himself sold into the dog sled life.  He experiences the difficulty of working his way to the lead of the pack and surviving the harsh weather conditions and owners.

Written by the same author of White Fang, Jack London expertly captures struggle to survive in the cold Alaskan air during the Gold Rush from the perspective of a sled dog.   Compared to the first book I read by Jack London, I liked this one from the get go.  Read more about that review here!  The story keeps moving in a short and concise way, while still touching on the importance of the heritage of wolves and dogs share.  If you are a fan of Jack London, or just enjoy dogs and the outdoors, you will enjoy this book.

 

 

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

SWEET: granular, powdered, brown, slow like honey or molasses.  The mouth-coating sugars in milk.  Once, when we were wild, sugar intoxticated us, the first narcotic we craved and languished in.  We’ve tamed it, refined it, but the juice from a peach still runs like a flash flood.                                                                  -Excerpt from Sweetbitter, pg. 8

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I bought this book because a reader that I follow on Instagram listed it as one of her top reads for the year last year.  I added it to my reading stack because I kept reading other reviews about how enticing and phenomenal it was.  And when I started seeing trailers for a show based off the book, I decided to skip a couple of other books in my pile and begin this one.

This is the story of Tess, a young girl who ran away from her mundane life to start over in New York City.  She finds herself in an interview at a well-known NYC restaurant and gets the job.  She learns quickly how much she needs to learn to be successful.  She finds herself deep in the trenches of how tolling and exhausting the industry can be.  But she also finds herself forming a palate, and learning about wine and food.  And heartbreak.

TASTE, Chef said, is all about balance.  The sour, the salty, the sweet, the bitter.  Now your tongue is coded.  A certain connoisseurship of taste, a mark of how you deal with the world, is the ability to relish the bitter, to crave it even, the way you do the sweet.                                                                                                                                 -Excerpt from Sweetbitter, pg. 17

This book is the unabashed, painfully truthful life of a young person finding themselves in the hospitality industry.  The only other book that I’ve ever read that accurately portrays what happens behind service is Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential.  While I work in this industry, my own personal experience has been very different than Tess’.  But the restaurant life in New York is also a lot different from Grand Rapids.  The content and language can be a bit raunchy at times, but so can life behind the bar.  It just goes to show you that when you go out for a meal, often, it’s never ever just dinner.

The prose and descriptions so accurate I could taste the peaches and fresh figs intrigued me in the beginning.  But the story line keep me immersed in the novel.  I read this book in huge gulps, chugging, binging, finding myself finishing it within 4 days.  I highly recommend this book to anyone that’s ever worked in the industry, to anyone thats struggling to find purpose in their life, and to anyone that loves oysters on the half shell with champagne.

Some tomatoes tasted like water, and some like summer lightning.                                                                                                                                              -Excerpt from Sweetbitter, pg. 40