Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Maryland Get Away, The Kimber Effect And Sweet, Sweet Memories

Over the life of Dinner Plan-it, I've given you little insights into various adventures I've enjoyed there with friends and/or family in the great and beautiful state of Maryland. (Okay, sometimes MORE than a little, you know I LOVE the state!) Never has time spent in Maryland NOT been memorable!

Generally, you get snippets of Maryland adventures like last year's vacation in Ocean City and the food and drinks at Hooked or more lengthy tales like a Food With Friends get together in Annapolis or Kimber's and my visits to Fells Point in Baltimore. This time I thought we'd take you along on our long weekend to Ocean City to experience (vicariously) the foods, the sights, the smells, the oddities, the simple pleasure of being at the beach. Are you packed? Let's go!

We start out early, after the dawn but before the morning rush, heading for the turnpike. Eastbound, our first observation is we should have packed more gluten-free foods unless I want to gorge on a selection of salty, oily potato chips from multiple metal racks at the Oakmont rest stop. Fresh GF food? Forget it. Lesson learned. 

Back in the car, we cruise straight to Bob Evans in Breezewood to simply fill the holes in our bellies. That we did, then back on the road with images of glistening waves, squawking  seagulls and glittering sand luring us on. The beach is our quest.

As we drive, we talk about Ocean City beach trips of the past and the many interesting weather events we've encountered over the decades. Hurricanes and Nor'easters are no strangers to our OC beach vacations. In fact, we realized that when Kimber is along, storms are the norm! We simply face the fact that Kimber is a magnet for - well, let's just call it less than satisfactory beach weather. 

There was one particularly memorable storm - I think it was Hurricane Emily - when Kimber was in high school that winds whipped up the seas into giant mounds of seafoam against the dunes and sand felt like it was shot from a sandblaster against our faces. Our windbreakers sounded like a platoon of helicopters landing! Why were we out there (along with one of her friends) in that kind of weather? Why wouldn't we be?! Type A tendencies, you know.

Making great time, we are! We crossed the beautiful Bay Bridge, dazzled by the ships and boats and familiar crab pots bobbing in the bay and we drew closer to OC with the temp at 81 and glorious skies all around.  Into farming country, we make note of the multitudinous farmstands on the westbound side of Rte. 50 to make our last-of-the-season produce purchases more efficient on the way home. Good plan.

And then, in the distance, we see the familiar signs and businesses that welcome us to our happiest place. (I've been going here since I was 5 years old with parents, grandparents, uncles and many, many friends. Many, many sweet, sweet memories.) 

Yeah, we could have gone that fast way that takes us north of downtown Ocean City, but that sucks the life out of all the years of recollections - that first smell of the ocean that wafts through the open windows and sunroof as we cross the drawbridge, the perennial line of placid seagulls grabbing for dear life to the roofline of M. R. Ducks on the righthand side, looking for (and saying hello to) the Boardwalk, the spot where the real yellow Volkswagon VW Bug used to be perched high on a pole above the Paddock (Eek! It's a country/western bar now.), Fish Tales (hello!), Macky's (hiya!), Seacrets (guilty pleasure still at my age). 

I forgot something in all my excitement. As we approached the bridge, the clouds gathered, the temperature dropped from 81 to 74 and the winds kicked up. Significantly. Yep, The Kimber Effect still holds. Comforting to know there are constants in life. We always prepare for the not so positive ones and enjoy the moments we're given as they're given. So our first stop was Hooked for lunch and a well-crafted cocktail. We earned it. The Kimber Effect worked to our advantage this time!

Nice and spicy with a house pickled jalapeno and pickled tomato to boot!

While we sat at the bar, ate a wonderful crabby lunch and chatted up the staff, the rain came, the rain cleared, the sun came out and we were on our way to check into the hotel. 

Mmmhmmm...the first of many crab dishes to ensue. Real Maryland crab dip and fresh made chips at Hooked.
(Hooked participates in the Maryland True Blue Crab program

You KNOW its real!)

As if we needed evidence that the Kimber Effect had cleared, we checked in only to be queried whether we might be interested in exchanging our King Suite room with the pull out sofa (only room available when we made the res - SunFest weekend, you know) for a room with 2 queens? Oh, and the 2nd night would be free. BOOM! The Kimber Effect dissipated in grand style before our very eyes. Done. Deal.

View from our balcony towards the Big Assawoman Bay - Kimber Effect on the way out.

View from our balcony towards the Atlantic - Kimber Effect banished!!!

First thing on tap? A walk on the beach! This is, of course, the reason we drove 7 hours to begin with.

So maybe the windy part of the Kimber Effect remained. The beautiful part!

Not yet ready for dinner - since we'd packed in such a late lunch - we decided to head north to Delaware. On a booze quest. Always fun to peruse the shelves of distant states to see what interesting rums, bourbons, liqueurs and unknowns might be lurking in unfamiliar territory. 

Our first stop was Lighthouse Liquors in Fenwick - nice selection in a relatively small store! Here we picked up Dogfish Head Brown Honey Rum. Yes. THAT Dogfish Head. We also found Abuelo 12 Year, a Panamanian rum I'd been searching for since we sampled its delights at Porco Tiki Lounge in Cleveland almost a year ago. Grabbed that one, too! Although they didn't carry some of the items on our list, they were kind enough to tell us about this place up in the outlet mall! Be still my heart.

Scores at Lighthouse Liquors in Fenwick.

Yes folks, raised stage, LIVE beach music AND outlet-priced discount liquors! Outlet store nirvana.
Well, you see the picture above. You can just image our reaction. Oh, and did we shop! Pusser's, Appleton Estate V/X and Wray & Nephew rums; my no-longer-carried-in-PA and long-lamented 360 Double Chocolate vodka - TWO bottles; Dolin's vermouth - both dry and sweet, nicely priced (relatively) Grand Marinier, and even some rhubarb and cranberry bitters thrown in for good measure filled our cart. A most successful trip already, yes? I'm already making a list for our next trip to Outlet Discount Liquors in Rehoboth!

After a thwarted attempt for dinner at Dogfish Head, we meandered back down Coastal Highway just in time for a prime spot at the Crab Bag. Yes, the second crab meal of the day.

Fat. Hot. Heavy. Just the way they should be.

The rest of the evening saw lots of shopping (LOTS!), leather jackets at end-of-the-season prices, Dolle's candies, frozen yogurt, stops in all of the surf shops - some more than once - and especially at our favorite open-late shop, Endless Summer where I picked up this little tiki number...for the bar, of course.

This little tiki surfer dude obviously catches only the fiercest of waves! 

Yawn. This was a long, productive day starting in PA this morning, to MD, DE and back to our room. Nitey nite. Another awesome day ahead!

Hmmm...what's with all the clouds?

First peak from the balcony. It will burn off!

So off to breakfast we go. Bloodies and Benedicts, please.

The brand new Barn 34 (where the Christmas shoppe used to be) is serving up some kickass food! The GF (no muffin) Benedict with fresh spinach, FRESH crab(!!), Canadian bacon, poached egg and homemade hollandaise was simply amazing. Pretty decent Bloody Mary, too!

Still cloudy. Let's head to the inlet before the crowds get there for SunFest. Nice time to stroll the beach, reflect on the past year and think about how much Mark would have loved this trip. Except for the shopping. He would have taken a little salt water taffy to the beach to enjoy with his beer while we hit the stores!


Time to hit the beach for REAL! will burn off.

Okaaaayyyy...sunning(ish) in the sand with a favorite beverage will brighten things up!

And it did.
(Sailor Jerry and ginger for Kimber (L) and Parrot Bay Coconut Rum, lime and Diet Coke for me (R). Don't judge. It was vacation.

And the clouds and wind rolled in again. No problem! We'd been wanting to check out Ocean City Brewing Company!

A light lunch, picklebacks and a flight of some pretty amazing beers at OCBC were just what the weatherman ordered! (So did we.)

More shopping, a late dinner and an early turn in were in order. Busy 2 days! Seems like more, doesn't it?

Sunday. Time to get up and check the skies to see whether we're sticking around to enjoy one last (crab) breakfast or hitting the road.

This view certainly made the decision easier.

This confirmed it.

And so, we bid adieu to the rain, drove back down Coastal Highway for one last time while saying our silent farewells. It was sweet. It was just what we needed to relax and refresh until next year. Reservations are already being made for August 2015!

Across the drawbridge, the rain eventually clears, we stop for pumpkins and apples and late tomatoes at one of the stands we'd reconnoitered just a few days earlier. Not interested in breakfast, we crossed back over the Bay Bridge watching the Eastern Shore fade into our rearview mirror. Until next year, your great big beautiful bridge!

While driving, we decided we'd stop at Wegman's (my standard fix when in Maryland!) for MD crabmeat by the pound and lunch at Brian Voltaggio's Family Meal. We stopped, spent hours in the Wegman's aisles - and the money to prove it - and then hit Family Meal. 

Our timing was spot on. Two prime spots right at the end of the counter opened up and we sailed past families and parties of 3 or more to our comfy perch. Knowing us by now, you also know we struck up a conversation with the men to our left and, of course, the staff. I think we convinced our countermates to visit Pittsburgh after telling them about the dining, cocktail and brewery scenes in town!

So lunch. The menu is classic diner and comfort food interpreted to the nines. But casual, friendly, family like and NO pretensions. The no pretensions thing at Volt was what I appreciated so much the times we've dined there.  

I started with cool, creamy perfectly seasoned deviled eggs generously dusted with crumbles of crisp bacon and I followed that with a bowl of cauliflower soup drizzled with basil oil and topped with a Parmesan crisp. Kimber and I shared duck fat fries with truffle oil, surrounded with 3 dipping sauces. Hands down our favorite was the onion dip one! Brought back memories of the 50's sitting around the black and white RCA, munching Ruffles with Lipton's California onion dip. Only in spades. 

Kimber chose the classic Reuben - so jealous I couldn't taste it and she crushed it before I got a pic!

Foreground - cauliflower soup, middle - deviled eggs, rear - duck fat fries with the magnificent onion dip!

For dessert - yes, we indulged - I chose the Banana Pudding with caramel and whipped cream, while lucky Kimber went the traditional MD route with a Smith Island Roll. Heaven

Sweet endings.
 Did I say endings? Not quite. A good cuppa Joe took that honor.
Having left Family Meal, we jumped back on Rte. 70, hit the Turnpike and were home in no time with nothing but sweet dreams of our all too short long weekend firmly planted in our brains. Well, that and the can of Fisher's Caramel Corn to make those remembrances even sweeter!

Ahhhh...home sweet - caramel-y sweet - home!
Thanks for joining us on our too short vacation. Hope you weren't bored! In my book, a Maryland visit is just what the doctor ordered. Anytime. I'm thinking a return to Fell's Point might just be the prescription next time!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Bacon Wrapped and Stilton-Stuffed Fresh Black Mission Figs

Rich. Lush. Decadent. Those are my three words to describe the season's bounty of fresh figs. I've been picking them up at Whole Foods in the last few weeks to make syrups or to eat simply with good cheese and warm slices of  a crisp crusted (gluten free) baguette. 

Fresh figs - as opposed to the dried variety - are a real treat to me. The crunchy seeds and voluptuous soft flesh make me wonder why it was the apple and not figs that brought the downfall of Adam and Eve from Eden. Really, fig leaves became their modest clothing, not apple leaves!

During a delightful evening at the Allegheny Wine Mixer in Lawrenceville with friends a little while back, we were tickled to see on the menu fresh figs stuffed with ricotta, wrapped in bacon and roasted to perfection. (Nice little riff on the typical bacon-wrapped dates on menus all over town, yes?) They were devoured before a single picture could be taken. Sorry about that. And I've been thinking about them ever since. 

Finally, instead of just thinking about them, I got busy in the kitchen and sort of duplicated them...sort of did my own thing...and made my own riff of AWM's riff at home with a precious box of Black Mission figs straight from the store. 

Since figs are so full flavored, I decided to change out the ricotta and stuff them with a cheese that could stand up to them - a nice sharp, almost cheddar-y and tangy Blue Stilton. The bacon part was a keeper, of course, because nobody puts bacon in the corner! (Errrrr...sorry Dirty Dancing.)

To finish off the little lumps of goodness, I glazed them with balsamic vinegar that had been reduced to a syrup - just the right acid to balance out the combo of sweet figs, tangy cheese and smoky bacon. 

The result? Just what I was looking for in an appetizer to accompany a fine Manhattan. Oh, I didn't mention the whole point of this dish was to complement one damned good cocktail? Not to worry, both appetizer and cocktail hit the "rich, lush and decadent" mark perfectly.  

Bacon Wrapped and Stilton-Stuffed 
Fresh Black Mission Figs

  • 1 dozen fresh Black Mission figs, little stems snipped off and a slit sliced into the side of each
  • 12 pieces of Blue Stilton cheese - each the size of the tip of your pinkie finger
  • 6 slices of thin-sliced bacon, cut in half crosswise (12 pieces of bacon for 12 figs, right?)
  • 3 T balsamic vinegar syrup (6 T of balsamic vinegar simmered in a pot on the stovetop until reduced by half)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In each slit in each fig, stuff a piece of Stilton - don't worry about it fitting, the figs give a lot. Wrap a half slice of bacon around each stuffed fig - starting by covering the slit and ending the same way. Place the figs slit side up in a baking dish.

Roast for 15 minutes, spoon a little glaze over each fig - using it all - and return to the oven. Roast another 20 minutes and baste again with the juices and glaze in the dish. Continue baking until the bacon is cooked and "melded" to the figs. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes before serving. 

Serves 2...and don't forget the Manhattans!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Fresh Corn, Potato, Tomato, Jalapeno and Bacon Chowder

Our weekly CSA box has been bursting with beautiful ears of corn! Just my small share has produced 4-6 ears every week - not a problem, right? Well...not unless you shouldn't be eating things like corn, nuts and seeds.

It's so frustrating to wait all year long for fresh and local corn season to roll around - so fresh that when you press a fingernail into a kernel, juice squirts so high you sometimes get hit straight in the eye - and then not be able to eat any. (You did know the fingernail test is the gold standard test for corn, didn't you? If a corn kernel doesn't squirt when you press a fingernail into it, just step away from the corn, ma'am.)

Having to miss corn season this year had me mentally scrambling for ways to still enjoy the sweet goodness of the season without encountering any of the unfortunate side effects of the whole kernels. Soup. Fresh corn soup. Specifically, fresh corn, potato, tomato and jalapeno chowder with BACON!

What if I cut the kernels off the cob, simmered them long and slow in a rich broth (WITH the kernel-naked cobs to infuse an even corn-ier flavor), then whirred the bejeezus out of them with my stick blender? Would I end up with a big pot of corn flavor without the dreaded whole kernels? 

Ladies and gentlemen, the experiment was a success. No, the resultant chowder base wasn't smooth as silk, but it didn't matter when nice chunks of potato, tomato, onion, jalapeno and bacon studded the chowder making for a good and hearty meal-in-a-bowl.

Gilding the lily, I topped each bowlful with a sprinkle of chopped tomato, diced avocado and crisp bacon pieces. Ahhhh, summer corn goodness!

Fresh Corn, Potato, Tomato, Jalapeno 
and Bacon Chowder

  • 4 slices bacon - thick sliced, cut across into 1/2" lardons - reserve the cooked lardons for garnish
  • 4 ears of fresh corn - cut the kernels from the cobs and transfer to a bowl, then take your knife and scrape the bare cobs over the bowl to capture all the last vestiges of corny goodness
  • 3/4 C red onion, diced 
  • 1/2 stick butter - unsalted
  • 2 large jalapenos, seeds removed, minced
  • 4 large red potatoes, scrubbed and skins left on - diced small - like hash brown size
  • 72 oz. store-bought chicken stock - a good gluten-free one to make this GF
  • 1 T Jane's Crazy Salt
  • 3 large fresh tomatoes, diced small - same as potatoes, reserve the last tomato for garnish
  • 1 avocado, diced - for garnish
  • shredded cheddar - for garnish

Saute bacon until crisp in a heavy bottomed soup pot. Remove and reserve the lardons for garnish. Add corn kernels and onion. Saute until the onion is translucent and then add the chicken stock. Next add the naked corn cobs, bring the soup to a boil and immediately lower to a simmer and cover the pot. Cook until the corn is tender as can be, about an hour. 

When the corn gets to the tender point, remove the cobs, letting as much broth as possible drip back into the pot. Now it's time to get out the stick blender (aka, immersion blender). Whirr the hell out of the kernels until they are all pulverized and return the soup to a simmer. 

While the soup is simmering, melt the butter in a heavy skillet, then add the jalapenos and potatoes. Once they soften, add them to the soup as well, along with 2 of the diced tomatoes and the Jane's Crazy Salt. Simmer until the potatoes are cooked through and beginning to get a little mealy. (Be sure to put the lid back on the pot.)

Once the chowder comes together nicely, ladle it into bowls and garnish with healthy handful of shredded cheddar, topped with reserved chopped tomato, bacon and avocado. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Girlfriends, Girls' Night IN And One Sweet, Hot B*tch (Surprise...That's a Cocktail!)

Girls' Night with great friends is exactly what the doctor orders sometimes. Last Saturday night the physician writing orders wasn't quite the regular General Practitioner sort of doctor you might normally visit, but more of the kind who heals your spirit and soul.

While perusing the bottles of liquor on the shelves for our evening's indulgences, we began with impromptu tastings of Zaya rum followed by Patron XO Cafe in tiny stemmed glasses. Tres chic (not)! Judy and Stacey (mom and daughter, too, like Kimber and me) and my dear friend Marti (all three of them in from Maryland), lounged in our estrogen-charged living room swapping stories, catching up on all the latest happy, sad and mundane goings on in our lives and sharing both sweet and bittersweet memories we'd been blessed to have with Mark.

Chicken, beef and pork soft tacos (yay Verde Mexican Kitchen & Cantina (their catering menu is muy bueno)!!!!) and gluten-free Chipotle Brownies (yay Marti!!!!) provided sustenance as Kimber kept us happy with delicious and creative cocktails. Bourbon on the rocks for Marti, a cucumber and jalapeno gin & tonic for me and rum and Cokes for Judy and Stacey. Hmmmm...there maybe have been some experimental picklebacks mixed in there somewhere, as well.

For herself, Kimber came out of the kitchen carrying a martini glass with 2 pickle slices perched prettily on its rim. That little riff on a pickle-tini turned out to be everyone's favorite! (You know we were all sampling each cocktail that magically seemed to appear...quality control and all that.)

Zesty Bread and Butter pickle juice (with just a little muddled cucumber and jalapeno for zip) created a perfect combo of sweet and salty, hot and sour to cap off a "Girls' Night IN" to remember. (No drinking and driving here!) Somehow the name transformed from "pickle-tini" to "One Sweet Hot B*tch." (I can't imagine what could have influenced such irreverence. *wink*) And the cocktail shall forever remain named just that.

Here's the recipe so you can create a night of your own to treasure with your very BEST girlfriends, no matter how old you are. Remember, great girlfriends can get you through just about anything while holding your hand, simultaneously making you laugh...and sometimes shedding tears of their own right along with yours. Cheers, my friends!

One Sweet, Hot B*tch

  • 2 cucumber wheels - save 1 for garnish
  • 2 fresh jalapeno wheels - save 1 for garnish
  • 3 oz. Bluecoat Gin (made right here in Pennsylvania!)
  • 2 oz. Zesty Bread & Butter pickle juice (Vlasic!)
  • splash of tonic (I use Fever Tree)
  • ice
  • 1 pickle slice for garnish, too

In a cocktail tin, muddle the cucumber wheel and jalapeno wheel. Add gin and pickle juice, then fill the tin 3/4 of the way with ice. Shake vigorously until the tin frosts and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with the cucumber, pickle and jalapeno wheels. Enjoy!


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Chocolate Candied Orange Cannoli Jars With Drunken Cherries - Gluten Free Version

Remember my last post about the "classy" Steel City Roller Derby tailgate with 101 Achievements bloggers, Jenn and Michael? Jenn asked for the recipe for the dessert I brought along - Chocolate Candied Orange Cannoli Jars With Drunken Cherries. Glad to oblige, Jenn! 

Besides being an easy riff on cannolis, what I love about this super simple recipe is that it travels beautifully for picnics and tailgates. Screw the lid on the jar and go...unscrew the lid and enjoy! The other thing I love is that I get the taste and spirit of a cannoli without the gluten or bother of making cannoli shells!

There are lots of Steelers, college and high school football games coming up...maybe a new dessert for your very own tailgate this fall? Here ya go, Jenn!

Chocolate Candied Orange Cannoli Jars
with Drunken Cherries - Gluten Free Version

  • 7 Pamela's Chocolate Chocolate Chip cookies for the gluten free version (or another similar gluten FULL cookie, if gluten isn't an issue) - crumble 1 into dust and reserve to garnish the tops - you may need a few extra to accommodate for snacking
  • 8 oz ricotta cheese 
  • 8 oz mascarpone
  • 1/2 C powdered sugar
  • 1 t vanilla extract - the REAL stuff, not that imitation crap
  • 1/2 t cinnamon - I use Vietnamese cinnamon from Penzey' this kind
  • 1/3 C mini chocolate chips
  • 3 - 3" X 1" strips of candied orange peel, finely diced (see method below)
  • 24 Luxardo or Amarena cherries or homemade boozy cherries, drain well & patted dry - leave 6 whole and cut the rest in half (I use Fabbri Amarena cherries that I order from Amazon - keep these on hand for Manhattans, etc....or midnight snacking!)
  • 6 1/2 pint jelly jars

In a medium mixing bowl with an electric mixer, beat the ricotta, mascarpone, powdered sugar, vanilla and cinnamon until smooth. Gently fold in the mini chocolate chips and candied orange peel.

Assembly: In the bottom of each jelly jar crumble 1/2 a cookie, then a heaping tablespoon of cannoli filling, 3 cherry halves, then crumble the other 1/2 of the cookie, another heaping tablespoon of cannoli filling, then sprinkle lightly with cookie dust and press the whole cherry into the top firmly, but perkily standing out. Screw on the tops and pop into the fridge overnight. Serve the next day straight out of the jar!

Candied orange peel: First use your harp style veggie peeler to make 4 strips (3" x 1" approx - or the equivalent) from an orange - the orange part only, no white. Set aside. Then make a simple syrup of 1/2 C sugar and 1/2 C water. Bring to boil, stir to dissolve the sugar and reduce heat to a simmer. Add the orange peel and simmer several minutes. Turn off heat and let cool. Use the peel for the above recipe and use the orange simple syrup that's left for a cocktail!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Krak The Wall Punch For A Roller Derby Tailgate Kinda Evening

Fellow bloggers, Jenn and Michael of 101 Achievements fame, invited me to tag along at last Saturday night's roller derby bout. Pittsburgh's Steel City Roller Derby teams, the Steel Beemers and Steel Hurtin', skated against teams from Indianapolis in a dizzying, seesaw scoring battle...what a showstopper!

Funny enough, the first showstopper of the evening wasn't on the oval track at all, but started with a tailgate. Yep, the back parking lot of the Romp n Roll skate arena in Shaler was the site of our first ever, high faloutin', roller derby tailgate. The menu for such an auspicious event? What else would you serve, but derby themed cocktails. And a lovely charcuterie board. Of course.

Michael crafted a gorgeous pink number, a riff on a Pink Lady he named "Gritty In Pink," using tequila and cynar in place of gin. A lady it wasn't. Smooth with a swagger, sweet with a throat punch attitude and perfect for the occasion.

My own contribution was a little something I ended up naming Krak The Wall Punch. The odd name came from the use of Kraken rum, local Stone Wall rum (thank you Boyd & Blair) and (while not local, still a local favorite in Pittsburgh's Italian community and among craft bartenders here) Janamico Super Punch, an amaro. To that combo, I added a mint and jalapeno simple syrup and a hefty zip of lime. To quote the label of Super Punch, the cocktail was "refreshin."

Add to the cocktails Jenn's charcuterie board of fine meats, cheeses - I especially liked the one with volcano ash, gourmet mustards, a fine baguette, jellies and fruits and we had one classy ass, bang up, pre-derby feast. Oh...and I made a little dessert with layers of crushed chocolate cookies, cannoli cream and drunken Bing cherries in screw top jelly jars for a sweet ending before the derby began. What a fun and fabulous way to spend a summer Saturday night!

Krak The Wall Punch
4-6 servings 

  • 3/4 C Kraken rum
  • 1/2 C Stone Wall Rum
  • 1/4 C Janamico Super Punch
  • 6 oz jalapeno mint simple syrup - recipe below
  • 1/4 C freshly squeezed lime juice
  • crushed ice
  • lime wheel and mint sprig garnish for each cocktail

In a small pitcher, stir well the rums, Super Punch, jalapeno mint simple and lime juice. Fill glasses with crushed ice, pour the punch over and garnish each with a wheel of lime and sprig of mint.

Jalapeno Mint Simple Syrup: 1/2 C demerara sugar (find it in the sugar section of the grocery store), 1/2 C water, 6 nice sprigs of mint and 1/2 half of a LARGE jalapeno, sliced across into rounds. (If you like less heat, use less...if you like more heat, use more!) 

In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil, lower heat and simmer until the sugar is dissolved. Add the mint sprigs and jalapeno slices. Stir until the mint is wilted into the syrup and let the mixture cool completely. Strain the mixture into a jar and store in the refrigerator.

Roller derby action!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Triple Dilled Potato Salad...and Changes

Change is inevitable. Back at the beginning of the year, change was on my mind...only natural as the calendar flips to a new year, a new time, hopes for a new beginning. All change should be so kind, not all changes are.

In a post at the start of the year, I shared my husband's struggle with heart surgery, our wait for a heart transplant and our hopes and dreams for a beautiful 2014. Together with our daughters and grandchildren, we rode the highs and lows of that entire life-changing experience, finally with a successful(!) heart transplant on Mother's Day. 

A beautiful new heart in a beautiful man who wanted nothing more than to enjoy again the simple pleasures of home and independence. And he achieved just that. 

Mark grew stronger, was able to drive not just his car, but his treasured tractor (he DID have t-shirt that said, "The Lawn Ranger!). We grilled and smoked and even bought a new charcoal grill for the neighborhood get-together we were planning to thank our wonderful neighbors for all their help over 7 long months.

We got out and about and socialized with friends and family all around Pittsburgh and looked forward to ditching that 2-hour travel restriction and really getting back on the road again...Michigan to see the kids and grandkids, Maryland and the ocean, the bay and our beloved Baltimore and further still to South Carolina and long-missed family.

Then changes came 'round again. Suddenly. Quickly Mark was back in the hospital. Immunosuppressant drugs are both a miracle and a curse, the latter when infection strikes and no way to battle against it. A man who fought so bravely over so many months with such determination and an amazingly positive outlook, was felled in just a few hours.

And here I am again talking about change. And heartbreak and hope. Change, good or bad is inevitable. Change is just another part of life and life goes on, differently, but on. With sweet memories.

Triple Dilled Potato Salad

I made this variation on my standard potato salad for Mark just a couple of weeks ago. He loved it so much he asked for it again when our potato-salad-loving grandson came to visit from Michigan. Matt really likde it, too! 

  • 2 1/2 pounds Russet potatoes, cooked in their jackets, peeled, cut into medium dice
  • 4 hard boiled eggs, peeled, cut into small dice - save one for garnish 
  • 1 large celery stalk, cut into small dice
  • 1/2 medium onion, cut into small dice
  • 1 C Vlasic Zesty Dill Spears, cut into small dice (or use your favorite dills with a nice zip to them)
  • 1 T Jane's Crazy Salt
  • 1/2 t dill seed
  • 1/2 t celery seed
  • 2 T brown mustard
  • 3/4 C mayo (Hellman's, of course)
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1/4 C dill pickle juice from the jar - or more to taste
  • 1/4 C fresh dill fronds, minced - plus extra for garnish

In a large bowl, gently mix potatoes, eggs, Jane's Crazy Salt (Yes, you can use another seasoned salt, but why? Jane's is the best!), veggies and seeds.

Mix well the mustard, mayo, sugar & juice and pour over the potato mixture. Sprinkle the fresh dill over the top and gently fold the dressing into the potato salad. 

Transfer the salad to a serving bowl and garnish with a sliced egg and dill fronds. Cover & refrigerate until serving time.