Friday, September 28, 2018

Harissa Honey Grilled Ham Skewers

Look at those layers y'all!
These Harissa Honey Grilled Ham Skewers are a little spicy, a little sweet and take less than 10 minutes to cook! The prep is equally as simple, and easy enough for kids help with. Thanks to Frick’s Quality Meats Sliced Applewood Quarter Ham being pre-sliced and fully cooked, most of the work was already done for me.
 A few weeks back, when I was in St Louis, I tried harissa for the first time at a fabulous cafe for breakfast and I immediately fell in love with it. I knew the smoky and spicy flavors of the exotic hot sauce would pair perfectly in something sweet like a glaze, and after a short time on the grill the flavors get even better. If you can't find harissa in your local grocery store, order it on Amazon. Mine was less than five dollars and so very worth it!
Harissa Honey Grilled Ham Skewers
1/3 cup apricot preserves
3 Tablespoons honey
3 Tablespoons harissa
1 green bell pepper
1 yellow or orange bell pepper
1 red onion
Heat a grill or large grill pan to high heat.

Whisk together the apricot preserves, honey and harissa in a small bowl and set aside.

Cut the Frick’sQuality Meats Sliced Applewood Quarter Ham, bell peppers and red onion into 1 ½ inch squares. Thread the cubes evenly onto 6 large skewers.

Once the grill is hot, grill the skewers for 3 minutes. Flip the skewers and brush with half of the glaze. Cook for an additional 3 minutes. Flip the skewers again and brush with the remaining glaze. Remove from the grill and serve immediately.
The skewers are all prepped and ready to go. You can totally make the skewers and the glaze well in advance if needed and the recipe can easily be doubled or tripled if you're feeding a crowd.
Let's talk skewers and assembly: if you're using metal skewers you're good to go. If you have bamboo skewers, you will want to soak them in water for 20-30 minutes before putting your ham and veggies on them. This will prevent them burning or causing any flare ups.
You (or your kids) can put the veggies and ham on in any pattern you'd like but I really loved keeping at least 3 cubes of Frick’s Quality Meats Sliced Applewood Quarter Ham right next to each other on the skewers. That way the glaze that got in the middle of the slices and stayed juicy, while the outer edges got nicely charred and thickened. Totally a personal preference, but that was my favorite part of these!

Update: I'm happy to say that this recipe won first place and $500 in the "On The Grill" category of this recipe contest!

You can find all of Frick's Quality Meats here, on Facebook and on Instagram. Be sure to follow them for tips and recipe ideas!
#fricks #smokedmeats #itsfrickingood

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Quick and Easy Thai Coconut Clams

Just look at that bowl y'all!
These Quick and Easy Thai Coconut Clams are insanely delicious and so very easy to throw together! I really can't decide which is better; briny clams cooked in flavorful coconut milk or the pieces of bread drenched in the creamy coconut mushroom sauce! 
Quick and Easy Thai Coconut Clams
4 Tablespoons butter
1 shallot, diced
1 cup coconut milk
½ cup vegetable broth
1 (12 ounce) jar Coconut Thai BLENDABELLA
½ teaspoon salt
3 pounds clams, rinsed and scrubbed
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1 large lime, cut into wedges
1 baguette, warmed
Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium low heat. Sauté the shallot until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk, vegetable broth, Coconut Thai BLENDABELLA and salt and bring the mixture up to a simmer. Add the clams, cover with a tight lid and cook for 5 to 6 minutes or until all the clams have opened. Discard any clams that do not open.
Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with the lime wedges and warm bread for dipping.
Serves 2.
I think this is a fabulous appetizer as is, but feel free to stretch it and serve it as a main dish by pouring the whole mixture over some boiled fettuccine noodles!
Here's a lovely before and after....above was my plated dish, and below is my children inhaling it all and fighting over the last of it. My husband didn't even get any because they ate it so fast! And, of course, Beignet was sniffing the floor all around their feet praying for some bread to fall.
If you can't find BLENDABELLA in your local grocery store, you can purchase it online HERE
Be sure to follow them on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest too for recipe ideas!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Thai Coconut Shrimp Ceviche

 One of my favorite things about traveling is the food I get to experience along the way. I get so much inspiration from restaurants, menus and regional dishes I try, and many times, that inspiration is what leads me to the next meal I cook for my family. Last week, when I was visiting St Louis,  I just wanted a few appetizers for dinner since our lunch was so filling. That led us to a Peruvian restaurant around the corner from our hotel where my husband had ceviche as his meal. While the experience was great, the dish left me wanting more and when I got home and started thinking of new entries I could create for the BLENDABELLA Blogger Challenge, I immediately knew what to make!
My Thai Coconut Shrimp Ceviche is packed with flavor thanks to Coconut Thai BLENDABELLA and with only a few ingredients and minimal prep, this delicious dish comes together in minutes. And I know that ceviche can alarm people sometimes due to the traditional raw shrimp being cooked in lime juice recipe, but this one starts with pre-cooked tiny shrimp so there's no worries when it comes to food safety for your guests or family!
Luckily, my family will try almost anything I cook, but even I was surprised when the whole bowl was finished in one day! My son snacked on it while doing homework and even packed a container of it for his lunch today. I'm pretty sure he's the only 6th grader today with ceviche in his lunchbox.

Thai Coconut Shrimp Ceviche
1 pound cooked salad shrimp
1 cup sliced canned hearts of palm
¾ cup full fat coconut milk
2 green onions, sliced
1 Tablespoon lime juice
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
Gently stir together the shrimp, hearts of palm, coconut milk, Coconut Thai BLENDABELLA, green onions, lime juice and half of the cilantro in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with remaining cilantro and serve immediately.
This dish can be served on its own as an appetizer or scooped as a dip with Tortilla Chips, Lettuce Cups or Crackers.
#BLENDABELLA #coconutThai
If you can't find BLENDABELLA in your local grocery store, you can purchase it online HERE
Be sure to follow them on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest too for recipe ideas!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Lunchbox Ideas to Get You Through the Week

Who else is already feeling burnt out on Lunchbox ideas?
It can be so easy to get overwhelmed with the chore of figuring out what to send your kids that is allergy free, healthy and kid approved. Nothing is more annoying than packing a lunchbox and then  seeing it come home barely touched at the end of the day. This will inevitably lead to a kid that just wants a snack all afternoon right up to dinner because they're starving. Super fun scenario, am I right? I'm currently working on a downloadable PDF print out to share of ideas that will serve as an easy reference and go-to when you need inspiration, but in the meantime, here's a peek of what I've been sending my kids this past week:
 Monday: watermelon, cucumber, carrot coins, ranch, baby tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower, mini naan bread, turkey, I let the kids pick one small piece of candy as a treat
 Tuesday: leftover boiled shrimp, ranch, a cutie orange, honey wheat pretzel rods, cucumber, baby tomatoes, black olives, black grapes
 Wednesday: Pepperoni and Meunster cheese squares, ranch, yellow bell pepper slices, honey wheat pretzel rods, strawberries, dried cranberries and edemame
 Thursday: Pepperoni and Cheese, edemame, a cutie orange, strawberries, dried cranberries, yellow bell peppers and mini yellow tomatoes
Friday: Pepperoni and Cheese (this is clearly a hit with my daughter right now), salad, Ranch, dried cranberries, strawberries, veggie straws

Friday, September 14, 2018

A Weekend in St Louis, MO

Happy Friday! I am so excited to share with you the rest of our foodie trip we took to St Louis last week. I showed you all the highlights from our Weber Grill Academy & Nature Sweet Tomatoes day before and now I'm spilling the beans on all the things we ate and saw in the meantime.
Day 1:
It probably comes as no surprise that one of the first things I do when planning a trip is figure out where I want to eat, and then I plan everything else around that. Before leaving I asked a few friends and weren't given very many recommendations and a lot of the suggestions I did get were chains which I try my hardest to stay away from.
Maybe it's because I had very little expectations or maybe I just was lucky enough to love my picks, but I truly was blown away by the food scene in St Louis!
The awesome girls at Nature Sweet Tomatoes booked us a gorgeous room at Magnolia Hotel. The rooms are beautiful and the lobby is a stunner for sure. The weather didn't cooperate all weekend so I wasn't able to get a good shot of the entrance, but it's located downtown and super close to the convention center, Busch Stadium and the Arch.

We took the early flight out (hello, 3:30 am alarm) and landed by 7:30. We hopped in our rental car and drove straight to Egg. It is the cutest little cafe and we actually ended up chatting with the owners for a while which was awesome! I loved hearing their stories, how they moved to America from Tunisia, how they shop the local farmer's market for the restaurant and how the coffee is a special blend roasted just for them by the guy 2 booths over. After saying how much I loved the harrisa, which is house-made, they even brought me a container of it to take home- how cool is that?!
I tried the Hot Espresso Martini and the Corn Bread Benedict with Sautéed Spinach & Avocado and Louis got the special omelet of the day which he dug into before I could even get a picture of it. Service can be a little slow, but the friendliness of the owners and the food made up for it and then some.
 After breakfast we headed over to Budweiser for the Bud Light Brewery Tour
I don't ever drink beer, but I knew Louis would enjoy the tour and I was excited to see the Clydesdales. The tour far exceeded my expectations, I learned a lot and I could not get over how clean and pretty it is there. The tour is 75 minutes long where you visit the Clydesdale Paddock and Stables, the Beechwood Aging Cellar, historic Brewhouse and the BEVO Packaging Facility. If you do decide to take the tours, bring a light jacket or sweatshirt with you. A few of the rooms were freezing and I wish I had brought one with me
Those horses are HUGE and I swear that their stables are cleaner than my house. I can't really tell you anything about this part of the tour because I wasn't listening at all to the guide. I was too busy watching my new friend Lloyd and wondering how I could sneak him home with me.
After the tour we made our way to the hotel to check in. Since our breakfast was huge and our early morning flight had us exhausted we decided to have an early dinner at Sidney Street Cafe. If you can only eat one meal in St Louis please let it be here. We ended up doing the chef's tasting menu with wine pairing and it was absolutely stellar!
The wine pairings were perfect and each dish was prettier than the next. The bread basket was savory beignets!! I told our waitress that my dog's name is Beignet and she packed up a box of them for me to bring home. 
Just some of the highlights from the tasting:
Confit of Octopus with sunchoke puree and sea urchin bisque 
(we fought over the last bite of that one)
Sweetbread Tostadas with white bean escabeche and pickled jalepeno
Roasted Scallops, Ragout of summer beans, creamed corn, nduja and bone marrow jus
Halibut, Parmesan gnocchi, marinated tomatoes, grilled zucchini, and a horseradish cream

Day 2:
Saturday was our Weber Grill Academy experience. Knowing how much food I was in store for, I just wanted a cup of coffee so we stopped at a little cafe called Coma right across the street from where we were going. I got a cortado and Louis got a gorgeous fruit smoothie bowl that he had already eaten half of before I could get a pic
After the buffet we ate at Weber, all I wanted was a nap!
Around 8pm I wanted a snack. I found an awesome Peruvian restaurant a few blocks away from the hotel called Mango that now holds the title of the best sangria I've ever had. It was absolutely delicious with a hint of cinnamon that I will need to figure out how to make soon!
Instead of the chips and salsa I'm so used to in Texas, they start you off with plantain chips and a bright cilantro dip/sauce that I ended up putting on everything.
Louis had the Ceviche de Pescado (Traditional Peruvian dish of today’s fish cold-cured in freshly squeezed citrus juices with Peruvian peppers, onions, garlic and cilantro) and I got the Causa de Salmon (Aji amarillo infused potato cake chilled & layered with salmon salad, sliced egg & guacamole finished with red pepper aioli). To be honest, I think both of the dishes were just ok and really needed more seasoning but the Sangria and cool vibe made it a place I'd definitely give another shot if given the chance.

Day 3:
We took our time getting ready in the morning and checking out so by the time we got to brunch it was around 10. The Shack was PACKED! The wait was about an hour, but when 2 seats opened up at the bar we just seated ourselves. The waitresses were really sweet and ended up giving us samples of some of their Boozy Shakes. These things were flying out of the bar and now I know why! We tried the "I Do What I Want" which was coco puffs, yogurt, bailey’s & frangelica and the "Captain Crunch" which is rumchata, captain morgan, yogurt & crushed cap’n crunch
I got the Gringo Killer Skillet- 2 eggs over medium on a bed of hashbrowns topped with chorizo, onion, bell peppers, green chili salsa & SHACK cheese and Louis got the Downstream is too Mainstream Omelet  - a 3 egg omelet with avocado, smoked salmon & feta cheese. Both were excellent and the service was great too!
After our humongous meal we went and visited friends of ours that we hadn't seen in years. The drive there was beautiful and it was so good to catch up after all this time!
Our time was almost up, but I couldn't leave St Louis without trying some barbecue so we headed to Sugarfire Smokehouse
We had the Smoked Fried Artichoke Hearts, The Meat Daddy Platter (Smoked Turkey, Ribs, Smoked Sausage, Brisket and Pulled Pork), Coleslaw, Fries and about 32,987 sauces! 
I really loved the Coffee and White Sauces!
I truly don't think we could have fit any more food into one weekend and I loved every minute of it. Even if my clothes were a tad tighter on the way home!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Weber Grill Academy, St Louis MO

A few months back, my Bacon Pimento Cheese Cherubs won the Grand Prize in the
Nature Sweet Tomatoes Tomato-Vators recipe contest! Part of the package was the awesome new gas grill that is now on my porch, but the best part finally happened this past weekend.
As part of my grand prize, Louis and I were flown to St Louis, MO to visit the Weber Grill Academy, cook with the chefs there and learn all about cooking techniques on their gas and charcoal grills.
  Here's what was explained to me before we left:
Your package includes an exclusive, personalized experience with their Grill Academy Chef using both charcoal and gas Weber Grills. Your tour will begin at the restaurant and Grill Academy. There will be a private bartender in the room to accommodate your needs. 
Your menu will be:
• Grill-Fired Mussels with Nature Sweet Tomatoes 
• Grilled Caprese Nature Sweet Tomato Salad 
• Bone In Tomahawk Ribeye 
• Grilled Lobster Tail 
• Grilled Roasted Ratatouille with Nature Sweet Tomatoes
• Grilled Lyonnaise Potatoes 
• Cherrywood Smoked Cherry Cobbler
What What?! To say I was excited is a huge understatement. They had me at "Private Bartender"
I knew the brief description sounded awesome, but I was truly blown away once we got there and realized that we had the entire cooking classroom, that usually seats 22 students all to ourselves! The table was set beautifully and had 2 gift bags for us, a mimosa was ready for me almost immediately and we rolled up our sleeves to started cooking.
Chef Keith had 3 grills ready to go with charcoal and he had Louis fill the grill baskets. Luckily no eyebrows were lost
All of our dishes were prepped for us and since I knew it was going to be a huge meal, I hadn't eaten breakfast. I'm really glad I didn't because the amount of food we made was insane!
First up was the Grill-Fired Mussels with Nature Sweet Tomatoes
Louis and I both love mussels, but I've always done them on the stovetop, so this was a treat!
You might not be able to tell, but the grill we cooked them on had an opening in the center of the grates so the dutch oven could be set inside of it. Totally want one of those now! We grilled the garlic bread around the pan while the mussels cooked and it was finished in maybe 8 minutes.
Each dish was paired with amazing wine, so for the Mussels we cooked with and sipped Cakebread Savignon Blanc. Tons of garlic, tons of butter- I was so happy!
We sat at our table and enjoyed our mussels while the dishes were cleaned up and the next prep tray was brought out. I really wish it was like that in my own kitchen! Let me just sit here and enjoy my wine while you clean up after me...
Grilled Caprese Nature Sweet Tomato Salad, Grilled Roasted Ratatouille stuffed in Nature Sweet Tomatoes and Grilled Lyonnaise Potato Salad was next. As I was chopping I mentioned how much I loved the knife that I was using. Chef Keith said "well then you're really going to like your gift bags"
I was SO excited that the knives we used were included! Totally didn't expect that and I can tell you, I've used it every day since I got back home. Joking with Louis while we were chopping, I said "I hope I remember how to make all of this" and, of course, that was already taken care of. Every recipe we made was typed up and included in our giftbags already. How thoughtful is that?!

I'm not sure if you can tell from the picture, but these steaks were MASSIVE
and the lobster tail on the side was absolutely divine! Grilled and basted with a lemon, garlic, basil butter - I ate the entire thing
Naturally, these courses were paired with the perfect wine
Chateau Gruaud Larose, a Bordeaux from France
Then came the cobbler. We smoked cherries, blueberries and cranberries in a grill basket with Cherrywood and charcoal, topped them with an oatmeal cookie type streusel and "baked" them on indirect heat in the grill while we ate our meal. Once it was done, it was topped with cherry vanilla ice cream and served with Dow's 20 Year Old Tawny Port
Aren't those the cutest little cast iron mini casserole dishes? Definitely want some of those now too!
What's in that small glass next to the port, you ask?
Oh, no big deal. Just a shot of Louis XIII Cognac.
I had no idea what it was until Louis told me a bottle costs around $2500
After a sip I carefully handed it over and let him enjoy the rest.
That was not the time for me to be clumsy and spill
After dessert, we were given a tour of the kitchens for the restaurant before we packed up all of our gift bags and headed back to the hotel.
From start to finish we were spoiled and treated like royalty. It makes me feel so grateful and lucky that this little hobby of mine, that I started on a whim 11 years ago, has led me to experiences like this. An unforgettable day that truly couldn't have been better!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Slow Cooker BLENDABELLA Mexi-strone with Cilantro Lime Pesto

My kids started school a few weeks ago, and we hit the ground running immediately. This is the first time in years that my kids are on two different time schedules at two different campuses. Add in after school activities and that can make for one hectic week! When the schedules are packed and you feel like an Uber driver, the slow cooker can be a lifesaver!
This soup is embarrassingly easy to throw together, packed with veggies and can easily be made gluten free if you choose to use gluten free pasta or boil the pasta on the side and let people add it as they serve themselves.
The hero of this dish is the Zesty Mexican BLENDABELLA it's full of portobello mushrooms, veggies and herbs and creates the most wonderful savory base for this soup. Minestrone is typically an Italian vegetable soup but, of course, I had to change it up and give it a Tex-Mex twist! After simmering away all day, top it with the bright and fresh cilantro lime pesto and it's ready to serve.
Also, I need to you say slow cooker or crock pot? I can't decide.
Either way, crock pot or slow cooker, I think you'll love this recipe
Slow Cooker BLENDABELLA Mexi-strone with Cilantro Lime Pesto
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (11 oz) can Mexican style corn with peppers, drained
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
4 cups vegetable broth
½ cup salsa verde
½ teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
1 (12 ounce) jar Zesty Mexican BLENDABELLA
2 (small to medium) zucchini, sliced into half-moons 1/4-inch thick
½ cup mini shells pasta

1 Tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup cilantro leaves
½ cup sliced green onion
2 teaspoons lime juice

In a 6-quart crockpot combine the beans, corn, tomato sauce, broth, salsa verde, oregano, cumin, salt, smoked paprika and BLENDABELLA. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.
30 minutes before the soup is done cooking, add in the zucchini and pasta. Cook until pasta is tender.
While the pasta is cooking in the soup, make the Cilantro Lime Pesto. In a small food processor or blender, puree the olive oil, salt, cilantro, green onion and lime juice to a small food processor. Blend until smooth.
Ladle the soup into bowls to serve and drizzle with the cilantro lime pesto.
Serves 6
#BLENDABELLA #zestymexican

If you can't find BLENDABELLA in your local grocery store, you can purchase it online HERE
Be sure to follow them on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest too for recipe ideas!

Pickle Baked Chicken Tenders with Creamy Chili Honey Sauce

Thanks to Hellmann’s 100% Recycled Plastic Bottles and the “Real Taste, Less Waste” challenge I get to share with you a kitchen hack that...