Thursday, July 30, 2015

Triple Root Beer Float (Grown Ups Only)

I love root beer. Root beer is the source of many fond memories for me. Long before the days that Kankakee had Kentucky Fried Chicken or Popeye's, we had Lloyd's. Lloyd's was a grocery on the other side of town. Sunday nights found us often at Lloyd's picking up fried chicken, Dad's root beer and the best potato salad I can remember. But I was probably like 5 then and who knows how good it really was. Soda pop was a special treat for us as we always had milk at our meals, so being able to drink root beer was so over the top special.We were then parked in front of the TV to watch Walt Disney that came on at 6:30. I used to love Walt Disney. It always began with the NBC peacock. Remember that peacock?

But on to the root beer stand; the famous Jaenicke's root beer stand located a bike ride distance from our house on the Kankakee River. It is painted orange and has a giant car port that one pulls up into. It used to be a waitress would meet you at your car and take your order. Those days are now gone, but the root beer stand itself is still there. From what I remember the drive in didn't pay their waitresses minimum wage; they were just working for tips. Now you actually have to get out of the car and place your order at the window. I used to love that special tray covered with orange plastic mesh, hooked over the edge of the window. The only place I know that does that now is Sonic and even though I love Sonic commercials, it just isn't the same. But Zoe and Manservant love it!

50 some years ago, A and W root beer was served in frosty, icy, giant, heavy mugs. The kind of heavy, glass mug that you were worried your kids would spill in the car. I swear A and W is not the same since they stopped serving root beer in those frosty mugs. I haven't been to Kankakee in such a long time, but if I were ever close I would stop at the root beer stand. And I'd also order a sauce bun with onions. Well. I'd order two sauce buns with onions. What I'd give for that recipe!

And so it is that summer brought back my root beer memories. Or maybe it was the photo from my brother of his lap holding a sauce bun that he sent about a month ago. As my mouth started drooling, my mind went to work. And though I don't have a sauce bun, I did make a pretty good root beer float. Using a no churn  ice cream recipe and some recently procured root beer extract, produced some great, but subtle root beer ice cream. Add to that this new liquor that Manservant discovered called Root. It is a very herbally root beer tasting liquor that he has made some awesome cocktails with. If you can't find it I know there are other root beer liquors out there and if you can't find those I'm sure a good shot of bourbon would do the trick, but truth be told, who ever turned down a root beer float even if it was a virgin? (That was a long sentence, wasn't it?)

I served these for dessert and what a perfect ending to a simple summer meal. I also made one for Manservant a few days ago when he had a wisdom tooth pulled. (It ended up not hurting at all, but no-he didn't turn up his nose at the float.) We sipped our floats while looking out at our yard that continues to improve with the help of our turf consultant. Yes, Manservant hired a turf consultant. He is so much better than a sprinkler guy and I'm NOT kidding!

I hesitate to tell you that I used real IBC root beer to make these for friends. However, I did use diet A and W when I made these for Manservant and myself. Yes, there is a difference. IBC makes a great float. The A and W is good and maybe the fact that it was diet soda made it just not as good. The ice cream is a breeze to make and if you can't find root beer extract just add some vanilla. Tradition is always a good thing! And the root beer liquor? What a way to chill!

Notes: The Root liquor has a very interesting background that you may want to read about. It also will tell you the story about how root beer came to be. (I won't tell you who made the first root beer, but I will tell you it came about because of prohibition and it was first made in Philadelphia!) Check it out. For all you alcoholic drinkers Root has been compared to an Italian amaro. And here's another good article from the Washington Post.

Triple Root Beer Float
Serves: as many as you want to make
Time to Make: About 10 minutes to make the ice cream and about 6 hours to chill it and 5 minutes to make the float

Root Beer Ice Cream
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 t vanilla
2-3 t root beer extract
2 c heavy cream whipped

Root Liquor
Your favorite root beer chilled
Root beer barrels for garnish

Beat cream until stiff peaks are formed. In a large bowl combine condensed milk with extracts. Fold cream into condensed milk mixture. Stir well. spoon into a covered container and freeze. (If I had had root beer barrels when I fist made this I would have crushed some and stirred them into the ice cream.)

To Make Float:
Using a tall glass fill about 1/4 full with Root Liquor. Add 1 scoop of root beer ice cream. Fill to within 3/4 of top of glass. Add another scoop of ice cream. If there is still room, pour in more root beer. Garnish with crushed root beer barrels. (Which really makes this a quadruple root beer float.) Drink through a straw but have a spoon at the ready!

More Summer Treats:
Hot Fudge Sauce
White Chocolate Crumb Topping
Oatmeal Crunch Topping
Chocolate Crumb Topping
Chocolate Cherry Cookies
Maple Salted Macadamia Ice Cream

Monday, July 27, 2015

Grilled Cornbread Panzanella Salad with Avocado and Corn

Calling all crouton lovers-yeah you, because that is what this salad is all about. We all know that panzanella salad is from the region of Tuscany and is essentially a way to use stale bread and soak it with the glorious juice of fresh red tomatoes. We know that, right? Then enough already. Let it be said that I AM A CROUTON LOVER and this salad is one way to appease my addiction. No, I am not a fan of boxed croutons, I am a fan of homemade garlic croutons and now I am a bigger fan of grilled cornbread croutons. This is a summer salad so don't overlook the grill.

I made this salad to accompany bbq ribs. I am not a rib lover.  I made this salad for me. This would be a perfect salad to top with grilled chicken. Or grilled shrimp. Or grilled fish. Or nothing. I am pretty matter of fact today, because I just am.

I used store bought cornbread because I made this at the last minute. Not the best idea I've ever had because their cornbread was too sweet and I didn't let the cornbread dry out enough which caused the cornbread to crumble on the grill. Learn from my mistake. Let the cornbread dry out or cut it into 4 8" long slices and let it dry in the toaster oven first; or on your counter overnight. This salad is best made with stale bread. It is more easily cut into cubes then and hence more easily toasted on the grill. It certainly is not necessary to grill it, but I promise you will love the grilled flavor. I PROMISE!

I used a variety of heirloom tomatoes, because I love all the different colors. I always have a hard time choosing. Most people choose tomatoes based on ripeness and flavor. I can't even get past the color. When it comes to gladiolas I'm the same way. I love color. Maybe you can tell by looking at the salad. What colors do you see?

This salad is easily made with your favorite veggies and even your favorite dressing. It needs a slightly acidic dressing, a bit high in vinegar. I love basil in this. I love oregano in this. I love, love, love pepper. I threw in corn and avocado and would have loved bacon, but bacon is over done, isn't it? Well, maybe it isn't.

I'm leaving you now. In case you didn't know and I really didn't either, this has turned into the year of the yard. I have a beautiful yard that has been neglected for the last few years. Well, this year it is getting TLC. And why this year? Well, this year is the year I got Manservant to work with me. The folly is coming along and the grass is getting greener. The waterfall is working non stop. We are afraid to turn it off for fear it may not start again.  Next year I might even reconsider putting in a vegetable garden. My hope is that the yard might be a tad more manageable next year. OH MAN. Who am I kidding? Speaking of which does anyone know how to get rid of Japanese beetles without pesticide? OH MAN. Why would I ever want a garden?

Grilled Cornbread Panzanella with Avocado and Corn
Adapted From: Fresh Everyday/Fosters Market
Serves: 4-6
Time to Make: About 20 Minutes Active/20 Minutes Not
4 c cornbread or 1 8" pan (I use the recipe on the back of the Quaker yellow cornmeal box)
1/2 c olive oil total
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 lb ripe, tomatoes
1/2 small red onion, sliced thin
1/4 c red wine vinegar
1/4 c fresh basil leaves, cut in thin strips
2 T fresh chopped oregano
3 T Italian parsley, chopped
1 avocado cut into cubes
1 ear of corn, cooked and cut off the ear

Heat grill to medium heat or oven to 450. Toss dried cornbread with 3 T olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Spread cornbread in an even layer on grill pan or if baking in oven, on a baking sheet. Grill or bake until toasted and golden. This may take 15-20 minutes. If grilling, watch carefully because bread can burn quickly.

Set cornbread aside. In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, onion, more salt and pepper. Whisk the remaining olive oil with the vinegar and drizzle over the salad. Add basil, oregano, parsley, avocado and corn and toss gently. When ready to serve add cornbread croutons and let sit for about 10 minutes so dressing has a chance to permeate the croutons. Garnish with more fresh herbs.

Don't forget to enter the Whole Foods giveaway! And you can enter this one, too!

Other great salads:
Egg Salad
Blueberry Chicken Pesto Salad
Spinach Salad with Za'atar, Dates and Almonds
Macho Salad
Bacon and Egg Breakfast Salad

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Perfect Grilled Swordfish and a Whole Foods Giveaway

I'm guessing that swordfish may have been the first fish I ever ate. Growing up in the Midwest limited the amount of seafood I had as a child. We probably ate walleye and maybe some salmon, but that was about it until the Jewel came to town and practically shut down my grandfather's grocery. Primarily we were a meat eating family and that worked well for us, well that is until my father had his first heart attack at the age of 42. It was blamed on high cholesterol levels which translated back then to eating a lot of beef. Luckily he was in pretty good shape, but that wake up call helped change our diet. And that was also about the time that Jewel moved to town so we were able to buy greater varieties of fish.

Swordfish was very popular then I'm guessing, because it has such a meaty texture. It is thick, rich and steak like, so I am guessing that helped coerce meat lovers into trying it. Overfishing of swordfish quickly reduced the catch and fisherman were banned from harvesting them in the 1990's. I wondered why they disappeared! The poor, gorgeous Atlantic swordfish needed help. Well, guess what? Swordfish are back and are now being sustainably caught, says the NOAA. And thank goodness for Whole Foods. They sent me a gift card to try some and I wasn't going to turn that invitation down.

Whole Foods swordfish is harpoon fished and individually caught off the coast of Nova Scotia. Whole Foods works with the Marine Stewardship Council,  a non profit organization, to make sure the fish we eat conforms to its practices.  Swordfish isn't inexpensive, but remember there is very little waste when eating a massive swordfish steak. Manservant and I each had a half pound steak and it was enough.

Swordfish is perfect grilling material in the summer months. We ate ours on top of a superb salad, but you could easily just grill this and serve it with pasta, rice or potatoes. You could even put it on a bun and have a super swordfish burger! Following a friend's practice, I like to coat my fish with a mayonnaise mixture which helps prevent the fish from sticking to the grill. There is no taste of the mayonnaise in the finished product and it's much easier to use than oiling the fish or grill. Try it!

Additionally, if you are anywhere near Boulder or other Western Whole Foods outlets that sell wine, be sure to look for the Fog Theory label. From the foggy Santa Rita Hills, their  slightly oaky, not to buttery, chardonnay would be a perfect compliment to swordfish.  Really, their Pinot Noir would work also. These are not mass produced wines and are specifically made for Whole Foods. Shoot! If you are splurging on swordfish, make sure you have a luscious bottle of wine to go with it. These wines are moderately priced and in my opinion, a great value! I believe they are only producing about 450 cases, so make sure to get in on the fun! I've sampled both and I can assure you they are quite enjoyable.

Grilled Swordfish with Lemon and Oregano
Serves 2
Time to make: About 10 minutes to prepare and 10 minutes to bake.
3 T mayonnaise
1/2 a lemon, zested
1 t dried oregano
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 lb swordfish steaks

1/2 a pint of your favorite olive mixture from the olive bar

Combine mayonnaise, zest from half a lemon, oregano and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk well and coat swordfish steaks with mixture. Set aside, refrigerated for a minimum of two hours.

When ready to grill, heat grill to medium high heat and bring steaks to room temperature. Place steaks on grill and grill for 6 minutes on one side. Flip and grill for about 4 minutes on the other. Cooking time will depend on the thickness of the fish. Ours were about one inch thick. If you think they are close to being cooked, feel free to remove from grill and cover with foil. The retained heat will finish cooking them and then you don't have to worry about overdone fish. There is nothing worse than overcooking fish. It becomes dry and tasteless.

Remove from grill and top with your favorite sliced olive mixture. Our Whole Foods had a savory sweet combo that contained olives and cranberries, raisins and almonds. Perfect for showing off this fish!

NOW: If you want to serve this over a salad, please continue:

I made a Lemon Balsamic Oregano Dressing that consisted of:
1/8 c Sicilian lemon white balsamic vinegar or just use plain balsamic
1 t honey
1/2 t oregano
1/4 t salt
1/2 t pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes and the goop from the olive mixture above
Now whisk in a 1/4 c of olive oil and you have a great vinaigrette perfect to drizzle over this fish salad.

I used a bag of chopped baby kale and topped it with slices of red onion, some salted Marcona almonds,  a few chopped dates, a few slices of paper thin Spanish style chorizo from Boars Head, and some goat cheese, though I think a few slices of Manchego would have worked better. I then threw in some chopped cippolini onions, also found on the olive bar and added a few caper berries for garnish!
Served with a glass of Fog Theory, this was an ideal summer meal!

You still have time to enter June's Whole Foods giveaway!

And now you can enter July's!

Whole Foods is giving away 1 $25 gift card to help fill your basket. This post is sponsored by Whole Foods but all opinions expressed are mine. Open only to US residents. No compensation has been given but products have been provided. Giveaway closes on August 15, 2015Subscribe if you don't want to miss the announcement of the winner in August to see if you won! Winner will be chosen by a Random Number Generator! 

How to Enter:

· Enter once by leaving me a comment and telling me your favorite fish or seafood.
· Enter twice by subscribing to This is How I Cook
· Enter again by following me on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. 

Other recipes to try:
Swordfish recipes from Whole Foods
Moroccan Fish with Chickpeas and Aioli
White Fish with Mushrooms and Browned Butter
Orange Cacao Rubbed Paiche

Miso Peppered Tuna

Friday, July 17, 2015

Roasted Potato Salad with Garlic Aioli

We need to make this short and sweet. However this recipe isn't sweet. It is savory, full of garlic and my very favorite vice - potatoes. I love potatoes. I can eat them fried, baked, hashed, mashed and even boiled. Those I must have with lots of sour cream and chives, please. Manservant complains when I make too many potatoes because of the low or high GI thing. I'm not very good with numbers so I just kind of stay away from white stuff. Well, not really. BUT, I try.

When the Queen came to visit I made her BBQ ribs. Meat isn't really my thing, but Manservant kept pestering for them, so I succumbed because I know the Queen loves them. She thought they were a bit overcooked. I thought they were fine, but I'll blame it on Manservant because he was in charge of the grill. I also made a grilled corn bread panzanella salad that I adored. The Queen had no comment. Then I made this potato salad and the Queen said it was a tad too salty. Then she asked if it would be on the blog. So... I guess it wasn't that salty. I followed this up with a lemon pie because lemon is the Queen's favorite, though it isn't mine. The Queen said it was going to fall apart when I cut the first slice. It didn't. It was fine. But the Queen pointed out that the filling didn't fill the crust. It didn't. But I like crust.

In any case, I took a few quick photos of the potato salad in the dim light, so I could put it on the blog. All while Manservant was so kindly doing the dishes. I've been making it for a few years now and my family loves it. I discovered it on Food 52 and though it isn't a traditional potato salad, it is one of my all time faves. The potatoes are roasted and taken hot, golden and crisp out of the oven, and tossed briefly with this heavenly garlic aioli. It is a potato salad meant to be eaten warm.

If there are leftovers, which there probably won't be, they refrigerate OK. However, this just does not taste the same, as hot from the oven. The aioli can be made ahead and it is very quick and easy to make. Let it come to room temperature while the potatoes are roasting and then toss both together. The aioli melts into the potatoes; the garlic, pepper and mustard make this totally pop.

This weekend is filled with more gardening and then I am taking Geordie to his first puppy show. I was coerced by his breeder because she will have Geordie's brother there and so this is a bit of a reunion! I know she just lassoed me in because we will be good entertainment. Geordie has never done this and either have I. I thought she was going to show him, but she has her guy to show. She told me to just do what she does. I just hope she doesn't trip!

And so I give you one of my favorite potato dishes. Even the Queen liked it. But boy, oh boy. It is sure hard being a princess!

Roasted Potato Salad with Garlic Aioli
From: Food 52
Serves: 4
1 lb small potatoes are larger potatoes cubed
3 T olive oil
1 1/4 t salt (less if you are a queen)
1/2 t freshly ground pepper
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 T mayonnaise
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 t Dijon mustard
1 T chopped Italian parsley (optional)

Preheat oven to 400. Toss potatoes with 2 T of the olive oil, 3/4 t coarse salt and 1/2 t freshly ground pepper. Roast for 40 minutes, turning about the halfway mark. (Important tip to make sure potatoes are crisp and golden is to not crowd the potatoes on the baking sheet. Air needs to circulate around the potatoes to make them beautiful and crisp. And golden and delicious!)

While potatoes are in oven, make the dressing; or do this ahead. Combine the remaining 1 T of oil, 1/2 t of salt or less, with garlic, mayo, lemon juice and Dijon. Whisk well and set aside until potatoes are ready.

Remove potatoes from oven and toss with the aioli. Stir in parsley. Eat. Imagine when you will make this again!

Don't forget to enter the Whole Foods giveaway!

More Great Potato Dishes:
Hashbrown Spud Cups
Cajun Potatoes
Tortilla Espanola
Patatas Bravas
Potato Kugel
Real French Fries
Truffled Scalloped Potatoes
Real Potato Salad

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Brie and Blue Savory No Bake Cheesecake with Toasted Walnuts and Honey

It is well into July and I feel like I deserted my poor, dear blog. Unintended but totally necessary, as you see my friends, I was welcoming the queen with very short notice. Yes, my mother came to visit. You know the one that just turned 80, but doesn't look it. She hasn't visited me without her male escort (my father),  since Alex and Zoe were 5 years old. And to what did I owe this visit? It was a dear, sweet puppy that enticed her.

We had a great time with queenly massages and perfect pedicures and a required stop at our favorite Vietnamese restaurant. We even made a stop at the Savory Spice shop where the Queen bought truffle salt, za'atar and other queenly spices.  Denver's weather was totally uncooperative but the coolness felt good to the queen, who hails from very hot Phoenix weather.  I even celebrated her short, but sweet arrival with a girl's happy hour where we ate this royal cheese appetizer that was quite fitting for a queen during tea time. So fitting, we skipped the tea and drank champagne sangria. No. I don't have photos of that.

In the meantime I've been exorcising my yard of weeds and watching Manservant pull down the kid's old tree house and turn it into a folly. My folly, and I can't wait to entertain my royal friends in it. He assures me that it will be finished in a few weeks which is a good thing because I have high hopes of using it this summer. Folly, in this sense was a new definition for me and this is how it's described:
"Folly": a costly ornamental building with no practical purpose, especially a tower or mock-Gothic ruin built in a large garden or park. I just hope this doesn't turn into a folly! My job is to find old windows to put in. The Manservant is even putting in a sliding barn door so I can open one entire side to the outside! I did save a few boards of graffiti that my darling kids left behind. This is one that is not X-rated.

My mind is in a bit of disarray and I best not try to remember all that has happened since the beginning of July. It is always amazing to me how long it takes to get back into the habit of blog writing. Only 12 days and I feel so behind and guilty!

So let's just cut some corners and get to this cheese! What a fun appetizer. It is rich and savory and totally decadent. It is also addicting. I loved serving slices of it to my friends on little individual plates and gave each person their own knife for spreading purposes. I put out some dried fruit and crackers and everyone chose their favorites. There are a myriad of ways that one could jazz this up, but this was simplicity at its best. I tore this out of a Martha Stewart magazine but I can't tell you when. It has been sitting in THAT drawer for a long while.

Now is the time to make this. It is perfect while summer sipping. It is perfect and easy and pretty. And we all know how good pretty tastes, don't we?

Brie and Blue Savory Cheesecake with Toasted Walnuts and Honey
From: Martha Stewart
Serves: 9-12
Time to Make: About 15-20 minutes

15 oz fresh goat cheese
4 oz mild blue cheese, such as gorgonzola dolce
1 9" wheel of Brie, chilled
1 c toasted walnut halves (I put mine in a pie pan and toast them at 350 until I smell them. I'm guessing about 10 minutes. Cool, before using.)
1/2 c ruby port
2 T honey
Fresh thyme
2 c red seedless grapes sliced in half

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat goat and blue cheese until light and fluffy. This may take a few minutes.

Using a sharp, serrated knife slice Brie in half horizontally, gently easing the two halves apart. Spread 3/4 c goat cheese mixture on bottom half of Brie. Sprinkle with toasted walnuts. Top with other half of Brie, cut side down, on top of walnuts.

Using a spatula, spread remaining goat cheese mixture over Brie. Chill 2 hours or even overnight.

Up to 1 hour before serving, combine port, honey and 2 sprigs of thyme in a small pot. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and cook until reduced by half- about 6 minutes. Add sliced grapes and cook 30 seconds more. Using a slotted spoon, transfer grapes to a small bowl to cool. Reduce remaining liquid until thickened, about 6 minutes more. This will become very syrupy. Remove from heat. If left to sit for too long this will become hard and difficult to drip over cheese as it will be like sticky candy.

Just before serving, arrange cake on a platter and arrange reserved grapes over top. Drizzle with port mixture. Top with thyme sprigs to achieve the pretty effect! Serve with dried fruits and an assortment of crackers.

The winner for May's Whole Foods giveaway is: LeaAnn of Cookin' on the Ranch!
Don't forget to enter the June giveaway.

Other great appetizers:
5 Great Appetizers
Middle Eastern Appetizers
Mexican Shrimp Cocktail
Smoked Trout Pate
Lemon Thyme Biscotti Crackers