Monday, August 18, 2014

Un-Recipe Files: Personalized S’Mores Bar


Last year we started a new tradition we like to call Wienerpalooza.  It is a super classy event, as you can imagine.  Basically it is an al fresco party where we serve all sorts of hot dogs and brats cooked over the fire with plenty of toppings.  



You can read about last year’s event on my Mini Chile Cheese Corndog Muffin post


Most of the same people were in attendance this year.  We planned it so that it would happen during my best friend’s annual lake visit with her family.  


Love this family!

We had beautiful weather again this year.  I love to see the cute kiddos running around playing.



This was Callie sneaking chips last year.


And this year!  So cute.


There were two new guests this year….


Last year they were just a twinkle in their mama’s eyes and a bump in their belly!


For dessert we did a personalized S’more bar.  While the original s’more is pretty great why not improve it with chocolate graham crackers and a variety of candy?  


My personal favorite was a Reeses instead of the standard chocolate.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Grapefruit Mojitos

Perfect Pairing:  Wooden spoon


Grapefruit mojitos are my official summer drink of 2014.  Fresh mint is muddled with fresh lime juice and a touch of sugar, then mixed with white rum, ruby red grapefruit juice and club soda.  Serve over ice and you have a ridiculously delish and refreshing summer drink.  AND, and and and, it is pink.  I love a pink drink.

I am not a fan of overly sweet drinks, so I don’t use much sugar in this recipe.  Feel free to increase the sugar if you like it sweet.  You could also replace the club soda with Fresca or Sierra Mist. 


Mint is a notoriously hearty plant, so if you are growing it this summer you probably have an excess of the fresh herb. My mom has a thriving mint plant that is always just begging to be trimmed down.  I am happy to use the harvest in a big batch of mojitos!

A few years ago when we purchased a bottle of Barcardi rum it came with a muddler.  I love this little tool, but if you don’t have one you can certainly use a wooden spoon to get the job done.

One year ago on Perfecting the Pairing: Nutella Crunch Ice Cream Cake

Two years ago on Perfecting the Pairing: Lemon Trifle

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Honey Roasted Carrots

Perfect Pairing:  Well-loved baking sheets


Honey Roasted Carrots is such a quick, delicious, easy, and cheap side dish. 

Carrots are tossed with olive oil, honey, vinegar, salt and pepper, then roasted in a hot oven until just charred and tender.  While they are still hot they are tossed with fresh lemon juice and parsley.

They are also really pretty.


Speaking of pretty, the first time I made this dish I used rainbow colored carrots.  They were on sale and I just could not resist! 

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Roasting vegetables is really hard on baking sheets.  Especially when you use cooking spray and honey.  I often wonder if they replace the Barefoot Contessa’s baking sheets for each show because they always look like new.  Mine look like they have had really, really hard lives.  I would recommend using your “well-loved” baking sheets for this recipe. 


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Special, Special K Bars

Perfect Pairing:  Pantry clean-out


Way back when I was in college and living in the sorority we had a very exciting week once a semester called study treat week.  I am not sure study treat week helped us study for finals, but I am pretty sure it helped keep on that college “insulation” that tends to happen.  These were not healthy treats.  They usually included pizza rolls and other frozen novelties as well as our house mom’s famous scotcharoos.  It didn’t help the whole insulation issue when they were put out late at night.  Recipe for trouble, all around.

If you talk to any of my sisters about the food at the house I think ALL of them would mention the scotcharoos.  They would also probably also mention the super weird jalapeño chicken that inexplicably had insane amounts of cream sauce and Fritos.  College was healthy.  Anyway, the scotcharoos.  They were ridiculous.  These Special, Special K Bars remind me of those college treats.  You noticed the extra special in the name right?   These bars are extra special because I added coconut and toasted pecans.  Side note, when I was a little girl I named my cat Special.  Poor cat. 

I was on a mission to clean out the pantry when I made these, so when I ran out of Special K I added some rice cereal.  Feel free to do that as well!  Just another texture in the mix.  If you don't have pecans, use whatever nuts you have in your pantry.  Everything is topped with chocolate and peanut butter.  Theyyyyyy didn’t suck. 

This is a great recipe to use the “sticky ingredient trick” I mentioned on this Payday Bar recipe post.


One year ago on Perfecting the Pairing:  Burger Sauce

Two years ago on Perfecting the Pairing: Chilaquiles

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Un-Recipe Files – Grilled Seasoned Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts

I just returned from a magical vacation in the happiest place on earth!  It is going to take some time to adjust to reality.  Everything really is just magical in the Magic Kingdom.  I went with family, including two of my adorable nieces.  It was so fun to see Disney through the eyes of a child. Although, I still feel like a child when I am there!


The precious moments were too numerous to list, but here are a few favorites.








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We also had a lot of good food at WDW.  While it was fabulous, I was ready to get back to some simple, healthy, home-cooked food. This simple preparation of brussels sprouts and potatoes on the grill is just what I had in mind.

For the sprouts, cut the ends off and then cut in half, toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and some of your favorite seasoning.  Grill in a basket until lightly charred and tender.

Here is what you do for the potatoes.  Scrub the spuds, poke a few times with a fork, microwave them for about 5 minutes, cut in half, score the insides lightly, drizzle with melted butter or olive oil, season with salt, pepper, and your favorite seasoning. 


Make a tray out of foil and place on the grill.  Cook until the potatoes are tender and start to brown. 


I made this entire meal on the grill in under 30 minutes, start to finish.  Stay tuned for the salmon recipe.  It is a favorite!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Puttin’ on the Ritz Fish

Perfect Pairing:  Stay fresh packages of crackers


What a weekend I just had.  It started on Thursday with a reggae concert (SOJA and Michael Franti) at Northerly Island.  I think Northerly Island is one of the best venues in Chicago.  Check out that view!  My boyfriend surprised me with the tickets (I may have given a few hints) to start off my birthday weekend.  He is a honey!



The rest of the weekend was spent enjoying great country music and incredible BBQ at the Windy City Smokeout. 

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I am not a huge meat eater but this brisket sandwich from Dinosaur BBQ was one of the best things I have ever had.  I had it two days in a row!  Now I need to learn to make brisket.

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It was an absolutely fabulous weekend in the city!


Now onto something a little lighter than a brisket sandwich. I apologize for the dorky recipe name.  I simply could not help myself.   I was giggling to myself as I made this fish thinking about the name.

This recipe is crazy easy and only uses four ingredients, fish, Ritz crackers, poppy seeds, and butter.  Salt and pepper are also involved, but I don’t count them.  So simple but truly delicious.


I used cod, but I think you easily could use any firm white fish.  All you do is place the fish on a foil lined pan (easy clean up) and coat it with crushed crackers, poppy seeds, melted butter (this step is called puttin’ on the Ritz), and bake!

These smaller packs of crackers were perfect for this recipe.  


If you have crackers leftover you should make this tasty Chicken and Broccoli Casserole.  It is a family favorite!  Try adding water chestnuts to the casserole for extra texture.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Un-Recipe Files – Avocado and Strawberry Toast with Feta and Honey


This spring I was lucky enough to go on a girl’s trip to Nashville to celebrate two very special birthdays with 11 other lovely ladies.  We. Had. A. Blast.   I had no idea Nashville was such a fun city!  Of course, this particular group of girls made Nashville extra fun that weekend.  We knew we were off to a good start when we walked into our hotel room and saw the incredible balcony.  It got a lot of use that weekend.


If there was a theme to the weekend it was probably something like, look ridiculous and be proud of it.  What started off as a denim only event quickly morphed into creating ridiculous outfits in general.


This one had a practical purpose as well.


You didn’t want to get caught walking alone in case someone thought that is actually how you dressed.  We were much better as an entire unit.


Nashville was hopping that weekend because of the Rock n’ Roll marathon and incredible weather.  The bars were all pretty much at capacity!


The weekend was in no way gourmet.  There was a lot of junk food consumed.  A lot.  Even though it was 99% bad, there was one meal that shined for me.  The first morning I walked to a nearby coffee shop with some girls to pick up breakfast and iced coffee.  The coffee shop specialized in healthy, local, organic ingredients.  I ordered avocado toast since that is one of my favorite things. They suggested adding strawberries, feta, and honey.  Why not?


Oh my goodness, I could not believe how delicious this combination was!  I was immediately obsessed.  It wasn’t long before I tried it at home.


There is no real recipe here.  Just mash up a ripe avocado with a pinch of salt, spread on some good quality toast, top with sliced strawberries, a drizzle of honey, and a sprinkle of feta.  Perfect for breakfast, a light lunch, or a snack.  It is crazy good.  Thank you Nashville for giving me this great idea and a ridiculously (emphasis on ridiculous) fun weekend.
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