Cool Down with a Salad!

Summer is officially here and I try my best to cool things down in the kitchen when the weather heats up outside.  I like to have make-ahead sides that can be served at room temperature and often serve salads for dinner. Cooking in the morning before the weather really heats is a good way to beat the heat in the kitchen.  Here are the key components to a successful entrée salad.

  • A good base of GREENS: whether it be kale or Romaine or a mix of baby greens you need a base for your salad. Greens come in all flavors from mild to strong and provide the perfect back drop to a delicious salad.
  • Protein: Having a protein is key for turning a salad from a side dish to an entrée. I love grilled salmon on a salad or hard boiled eggs. Both of these can be made ahead to beat the heat at dinner time. If you really don’t feel like turning on the oven or stove, open a can of tuna or add some canned beans to your salad to provide protein.
  • Some Crunch: This could come from something as simple as toasted almonds or a crisp apple.  Adding some crunch to your salad gives it some texture and makes it more appealing to all of your senses.
  • Something Salty: If you are feeling simple, sprinkle your salad with some Jacobsen Salt Co. Flake Salt. If you want to dig deeper add a salty cheese or maybe some crushed tortilla chips or perhaps some salty meat like a cubed salami.
  • Something Sweet: I love putting some dried fruit on top of my salad… raisins & apricots are always a good choice. Candied nuts are a great option to add something sweet and crunchy!
  • Dressing: This could be the most important component of your salad as it provides lots of flavor to your meal.  I am partial to line of amazing dressings from Farmhouse Lab. I would say my favorite is the Berry Olive but the truth is I love them all.  A dressing should add flavor and bring all of the other components in  your salad into one dish.  If you prefer to keep your dressing simple, I would recommend FIVE Extra Virgin Olive Oil and FIVE Aged Balsamic Vinegar.

With these key components and a combination of your favorite fruits and vegetables you are sure to have a delicious salad on hand for dinner tonight.  The best part of having a really good salad for dinner is saving the leftovers for lunch the following day!

Happy Friday,

Julie

Spring into Summer

After Memorial Day, I really start to feel the transition from spring into summer.  Spring is one of my favorite seasons. Everything starts to turn green and we get to be less bundled as the temperature begins to creep up. Produce also begins to turn green and there is a new variety of vegetables and fruits to use in the kitchen! Now that we have passed the unofficial start of summer, I can dig out those white pants from of the back of my closet(Just kidding!) and embrace even more produce.  These days we do start to wear shorts more than pants and there are more days when I go out without a jacket.  School is slowly coming to an end and we can all look forward to the care-free fun of camp during the summer. 

One of my favorite parts of summer is the ability to serve something that requires little to no cooking.  Salads become staple on our dinner menu. I dare you to count the number of times I post a tomato, basil, and mozzarella salad this summer. I’ll be changing them up slightly each time by using different sized tomatoes, perhaps using a dressing from Farm House Labs one week and the following week simply drizzling the salad with 5 Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  I plan to cook vegetables ahead of time and serve them with a light vinaigrette to greet the freshness of summer.  The wine in our house also begins to change from red to white and maybe with a rose mixed in.  With the summer heat, a chilled wine is always appreciated and this summer we are ready for drinks on the terrace with plastic wine glasses!

One downside of the heat is that we need to ship some of our products express to make sure they arrive in their best condition.  You can check out all of our summer shipping guidelines here.

Whether you spend your summer in the city, at the beach or somewhere in between I hope it is as relaxing as you want it to be.

Happy Friday,

Julie

Fire up the Grill!

Fire up the grill!

Who doesn’t love to grill…especially on a warm sunny day, am I right?  At my house I typically do the cooking but my husband is always in charge of the grilling.  It isn’t that I don’t know how to grill, it is just that he likes it and it is an easy task for me to delegate to him.  In the city, we have a grill as part of our Wolf Range which isn’t quite as romantic as grilling outside (but better than not grilling at all).  When we go on vacation, we always rent a house with a grill.  On those instances I am pretty sure my husband loves being outside by the grill, sipping glass of wine and enjoying the weather. 

With Memorial Day Weekend starting, summer has un-officially begun and that marks the start of grilling season for most.  When I grill a protein I typically don’t follow  recipe.  The meat or fish is seasoned with one or more spice blends from La Boîte and some kosher salt.  For side dishes I tend to be more of a recipe follower.  Here is one of my favorite grilled side dishes. I first started making this when I lived in London and we had a charcoal grill on our roof top.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Happy Friday,

Julie

Grilled Romaine Salad

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

2 heads Romaine Lettuce

1 red onion

2 ripe avocados

1 pint grape tomatoes

Olive oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Method

-Pre-heat grill to medium high heat. While the grill is heating prepare the vegetables.  Slice the heads of Romaine in half from the stem to the tip.  Peel and slice the onion into ¼ inch slices.  Season lettuce and onion with olive oil, salt and pepper.

-Place onion slices on the grill away from the direct heat.  Allow to grill for about 20 minutes or until no crunch remains.

-Place lettuce on grill and allow to cook for 3-4 minutes per side.

-Slice grilled lettuce into 1-inch ribbons and put into salad bowl.  Chop grilled onion and add to the bowl.

-Slice the grape tomatoes in halve and add to the bowl.  Dice the avocado and add it to the bowl as well.

-Drizzle with a little more olive oil and salt and pepper if desired.  Toss to coat and enjoy.

 

All-You-Can-Eat

Earlier this summer, I had the pleasure of cruising to Alaska aboard the Disney Wonder.  I had heard a lot about cruises and their all-you-can-eat buffets so I set my expectations pretty low for the food we would eat aboard the ship.  I was pleasantly surprised with the dining options and even more so with the service and hospitality extended from the servers on board.

For breakfast the main option was Cabanas(the all-you-can-eat buffet). It worked out really great for my family as we could each pick and choose what we wanted.  While I don’t like to waste food, anyone who has children knows they are often picky about what they eat and it changes from day to day. The buffet was great because we could load up a plate with Mickey Mouse Waffles, chocolate chip pancakes, donuts and even fresh fruit.  There were healthier options as well and I typically got yogurt with fruit and granola while my husband chose the made-to-order omelet.  The good news was with all of the options our crew started off the day with tanks full and ready to go.

Lunch was a little bit different as you could choose from a variety and ‘take-away’ counters or the buffet.  I believe there was a sit-down option as well but we didn’t take advantage of that.  Pete’s Boiler Bites served up the best chicken fingers and French Fries on the ship.  Pinocchio’s Pizzeria had pretty good pizza and even humored my son by making him pizza without the sauce with extra cheese on the side.  Daisy’s De-Lites had paninis, salads and lots of fresh fruit. And then there was Cabanas with the never-ending buffet of options complete with plain pasta to satisfy any child.  We typically got a variety from more than one of the options and the best part was sitting outside looking at the amazing views.  Lunch often finished with ice cream from Eye Scream Treats, a serve-yourself soft serve ice cream that was available from 10am-11pm.

Dinner was the most formal of the meals with a set reservation rotating between three restaurants.  Every night had a different theme and were all loosely Disney based.  Animators Palate had a lot of screens on the wall with Disney images to entertain you throughout the meal.  We also had breakfast with the characters here.  Tiana’s Place was very Cajun and we even celebrated Mardi Gras there one night.  Triton’s was based on The Little Mermaid and had a bit more seafood than the others. There were often ‘fancy’ options on the menu including truffles and lobster.  As I am writing this three weeks after my return, there isn’t anything that I ate that stood out as amazing or a complete disappointment.  As I mentioned the service was amazing and we had the same servers for all of our dinners on the ship.

The rumors about gaining weight on a cruise might be true.  My brother-in-law even downloaded an app that makes you look like you’ve gained a few pounds.  Perhaps it is my self-control but I walked off the ship still wearing the same pants I had on when I boarded and they felt just fine.  I found the food on the ship to be better than I expected. My only disappointment was that the lack of local options. I cannot say I really enjoyed Alaskan cuisine but I did enjoy everything else Alaska had to offer.

Happy Friday,

Julie

Traveling Vegan

Finding vegan food while traveling is not always easy, especially when traveling to areas of the country that rely heavily on meat and dairy products. I was in Roanoke, Virginia during the 4th of July week, and finding vegan food at restaurants and markets was really quite challenging. Aside from a beautiful array of fresh produce at roadside farm stands, fresh and delicious vegan food was nearly nonexistent. Thankfully I’m a chef, and I enjoy a challenge, so I was able to whip up quick and delicious meals on the go, to be enjoyed at the hotel, on the road, or before going out to dinner with my family. It’s a little awkward sitting food-less at a table of dining individuals, but when the majority of restaurants have no vegan options, there are only so many french fries one can consume in a weeks time, so it’s better to just pass. With a little planning and willpower, it’s really no effort at all to create beautiful and nutrient dense vegan meals with little to no kitchen equipment in a hotel room — you just need to be prepared. When shopping, remember balance, knowing that each of your meals should contain greens, carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Choose fruits and veggies that need no kitchen equipment to prep for consumption. If craving melon, opt for the pre-cut and packaged options — not something I would normally advocate for, but when you’re in a bind, it’s okay to use. If preparing a salad, like mentioned with the melon above, chose pre-cut and packaged produce that can simply be added to salad greens. A simple vinaigrette can be made with vinegar — like red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard, salt and pepper, whisked with a fork in a plastic bowl. Fresh fruit is always a delicious add-in to a salad, so feel free to add whichever fruit you desire, and maybe add some roasted nuts and a protein rich canned bean like chickpeas, and boom, an easy and delicious lunch or dinner. For breakfast, I enjoyed either avocado toast with roasted red pepper hummus and a side of fresh fruit, toast with raw almond butter, a smear of coconut yogurt, and fresh berries, or a bottled organic protein shake. The moral of the story is, whether traveling near or far, finding vegan food at restaurants may be a challenge, but creating beautiful food doesn’t have to be. With a little imagination and preparation, you’ll have an amazing meal in minutes flat. 

Enjoy the journey! 

Payton 

Dining Across the Pond

Traveling is one of my favorite things to do. Getting to a new place, seeing new scenery, and trying new foods are what making adventures in different cities and countries the best!  Since Summer is often a time for travel, we’ve decided to focus our blog on foods in different places.

Right after I got married, my husband and I went to London.  This wasn’t a week’s visit, we lived there for two years. As you can imagine, I had the opportunity to really immerse myself in British Cuisine. British food has gotten a bad rap for a long time but let me tell you there is a lot of great food in London if you look for it.  As with any metropolitan city there are chefs from around the world, cooking their native cuisines. At the same time, there are still plenty of local chefs cooking amazing British Food.  Here are some of my favorites.

Geales – This is a neighborhood restaurant that serves up the biggest portion of fish and chips you’ve ever seen.  It is also the best fish and chips I’ve ever had.  We went here whenever anyone came to visit so they could cross fish and chips off their list.  Let me tell you, it never got old.  This is still a stop on any trip I take to London.

The Ledbury – Now Number 27 of the Worlds 50 Best Restaurants,  The Ledbury is fine dining at it’s best.  I had the pleasure of dining here many times as it was just down the street from where I lived.  The food and ambiance complemented each other perfectly providing an intimate dining experience on some of the best local foods.

St. John – This is one of the original nose to tail restaurants where they literally serve you everything from the snout to the hoof.  While that might not sound appealing to all, it was wonderful to see how they used traditional methods on non-traditional cuts of meat.  The flavors were traditionally British but the food was anything but traditional.

Rococo Chocolates – I couldn’t right a post about London without mentioning our amazing Rococo Chocolates.  We have a large selection in our marketplace, here.  There are four retail locations in London and if you are strolling around Belgravia, don’t miss the chance to have a coffee and a chocolate in their wonderful MaRococo Garden.  All of their chocolates are made in London and the fresh ganache isn’t available outside of England, so be sure to select a few of those to taste as well. My personal favorite is the Anglesey Sea Salt Ganache.

If you need any other eating tips in London just let me know.  I could write pages of recommendations.

Happy Friday,

Julie

Give me s’more please!

S’mores are a tasty campfire treat that I look forward to every summer.  The origin of this treat can be traced back to the “Graham Cracker Sandwich” in an old Girl Scouts cook book.  There is no denying that you will always come back for some more of this combination of toasted marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers. I used to love to catch my marshmallows on fire and let them burn to gooey goodness. Now I have more patience and prefer a nice toasty outside and a super gooey inside.  As we are always looking for ways to make something old, new again… we have come up with some pretty delicious variations on this classic dessert.

Happy Friday,

Julie

Traditional S’mores & More

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

8 Large Marshmallows, toasted to your liking

2 chocolate bars, cut into 4 pieces

4 large graham crackers, broken in half

Method:

-Sandwich toasted marshmallows between two pieces of graham cracker and 1 chunk of chocolate.

VARIATIONS

-Make this treat even easier by using Paul + Pippa Chocolate Flake Biscuits to replace the graham crackers and the chocolate.

-Use some single origin dark chocolate from Palette de Bine

-Add some extra sweetness by placing a Salty Caramel from Jacobsen Salt Co. in the sandwich

-Make it cool by adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream

-And when all else fails just eat the gooey marshmallow😊

Seas the Day!

There is nothing better than lounging on the beach on a hot summer day. With easy access to a plethora of beautiful beaches via public transit, we New Yorkers are quite lucky! From Far Rockaway, to Fire Island, to the Hampton Villages, there is no shortage on beautiful beachfront fun. Laying in the summer sun near the water with a cocktail in hand and a speaker loudly singing makes for the most perfect day, so gather up your friends, pack a cooler full of snacks and our Watermelon Margarita Slush Punch, maybe a volleyball and frisbee, and make a day if it. It’s also important that you go prepared, regardless of which beach you choose to visit. A proper beach bag should contain a blanket or beach towels for lounging, a Bluetooth speaker, a hat, sunglasses, loads of sunscreen, water,  a book or a few magazines, and maybe also a collapsible beach umbrella. For snacks, it’s important to bring foods that don’t easily spoil — so I would personally avoid any type of meat or seafood unless you have a really well insulated cooler — like fresh fruit kabobs, vegetable crudités, chips and dip, or maybe even a classic PB&J…using Gus & Grey Jam of course!  Most importantly, pack plenty of water, as staying hydrated is imperative when spending a day outside in the heat of the summer. Spending most days surrounded by concrete, it can be hard to remember the beauty that surrounds us, but luckily so, the beauty of nature and the roaring ocean is only a quick train ride away!

Happy summer!

Payton

Watermelon Margarita Slush Punch

Ingredients:

1/3 c sugar

1/3 c fresh lime juice

5 c cubed seedless watermelon

1/3 c tequila

Fresh mint leaves

Method:

-Heat lime juice and sugar in a small saucepan until sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool.

-Add watermelon, lime syrup, tequila, and mint to a high speed blender and blend until smooth.

-Place in a shallow dish and freeze, agitating mixture with a fork every 30 minutes to create slushy texture. Transfer to a freezer safe storage vessel when completely frozen.

-Pack in cooler completely encased in ice.

-To build cocktail, add slush to a glass, add in another shot of tequila, and top with club soda and a wedge of lime! Enjoy.

Ice Cream, Yes Please!

There is nothing better than ice cream on a warm summer day.  With Van Leeuwen opening down the street I am tempted almost daily to stop and have a cone.  The most intriguing part of the shop are their flavors.  They have everything from basic vanilla and chocolate to Royal Wedding Cake and S’mores.  Always being someone who is up for a challenge, I decided to pull out my ice cream maker and see if I could create some amazing flavors with the products from the marketplace.

When I received my ice cream maker years ago, I was given a copy of the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Cookbook and to this day, their sweet cream base is what I use to start all of my ice cream creations. I am happy to share the recipe below along with the creative flavors I produced. Put the ice cream in a cup or a cone and enjoy!

Happy Friday,

Julie

Ben & Jerry’s Sweet Cream Base

Makes 1 quart

Ingredients:

2 large Eggs

¾ cups Sugar

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1 cup whole milk

Method:

-Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes.

-Whisk in the sugar a little at a time and then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 more minute.

-Pour in the cream and milk and whisk to blend.

-Pour entire mixture into prepared ice cream maker and freeze as directed.

-Add mix-ins during the last few minutes of freezing.

Flavor Creations

Black Forest – Gus & Grey Sassy Red Head with Paul + Pippa Chocolate Biscuits

Cashew & Cranberry – Chopped Cacao Prieto Dark Chocolate Bark

Chocolate Chip – Chopped Palette de Bine Single Origin Chocolate

Toffee Crunch – Lucy’s Toffee Crumbles

It’s 5 o’clock Somewhere! Strawberry Moscow Mule with Gus & Grey Sassy Redhead

Who doesn’t love a cocktail on a hot summer day or night… or even better, BOTH?! Not only do I enjoy drinking a delicious cocktail, I also equally enjoy crafting the perfect cocktail, and playing around with and experimenting with different flavor combinations. Variation is limited only to your imagination, so let your creativity run wild…. I certainly do! In the summer, I love using seasonal produce paired with fresh herbs, like blackberries or strawberries and mint, or cucumber and basil, or raspberries and thyme…. so on and so forth, the list goes on and on. A combination of nostalgia, the ocean breeze, and the warm hug of a summer evening pairs so perfectly with a cocktail. I relish the nights set underneath a star painted sky sipping something cool, light, and refreshing. A lovely craft cocktail also elevates your summer outing, picnic, or party to the next level, so plan accordingly 🙂

Since it’s almost strawberry season, how does a Strawberry Mule with Gus & Grey Sassy Redhead sound?! Pretty amazing, right? I think so too! Fresh strawberries, ginger beer, maybe some fresh mint for good measure, vodka, and Gus & Grey Sassy Redhead Jam for a little spicy-sweetness, how could you go wrong with this combination?! Get your friends together and enjoy a beautiful summer moment outdoors with this delicious cocktail. Enjoy!

Strawberry Moscow Mule with Gus & Grey Sassy Redhead Jam

Ingredients:
⅓ c sugar
⅓ c water
⅓ c Gus & Grey Sassy Redhead Jam
1 c fresh strawberries, chopped, plus extra for garnish
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice, plus lime wedge for garnish
3 oz chilled vodka (yes, this is a double! You can thank me later!)
Ginger beer

Method:
– Make simple syrup by combining sugar, water, and Gus & Grey Sassy Redhead in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer and cook until all of the sugar is dissolved. Add the chopped strawberries and allow to steep for at least 30 minutes. Now would also be the perfect time to add some fresh mint leaves, gently mashed beforehand to release their oils. After steeping, strain into a pitcher.
– To an ice filled cocktail shaker, add a few tablespoons of simple syrup, vodka, and lime juice. Shake until chilled.
– Muddle a few fresh strawberries and a few mint leaves in the bottom of a copper mug, add ice, and top with the vodka mixture, making sure to leave room for the ginger beer. Top with ginger beer and a wedge of lime and ENJOY!

Happy summer, everyone!

Payton