Beer Braised Brats

Everyone knows I am a little bit of a wino. I love the taste, the fact that there are independently owned wineries all over California & I love even more that more & more wineries are opening up around the country. Love supporting local businesses. Anyone who has the balls to put themselves out there & start something deserves to be supported.

Last year Chris & I started getting more & more into beer, for all of the same reasons. Breweries are popping up all over the country & a lot of breweries feature great pup foods & snacks.

A few months ago we spent a long weekend in the West Palm Beach area of Florida. We were there for a wedding but my cousin moved there a few years ago so we spent a day with him & his wife brewery hopping to three different breweries. Two were seasoned breweries but one had just opened that week, which was pretty cool.

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They were each so different from their ambiance, to their taste. My favorite was probably Due South Brewing Company. A large 15,000 square foot brewery with an onsite taproom, private back room & yard games to play. Due South was the second gastropub we stopped at so we started by grabbing dinner at the food truck on our way in the door. We each got a flight & played a game of corn hole. Sounds like a perfect Saturday to me!

If you talked to me 6 years ago I would say pass me a Michelob Ultra for the girlie taste & the $4 price tag. Now a days I’d like only a freshly tapped Double IPA with an amazing basket of sweat potato fries & pumpkin dip. I know, pretty specific.

This recipe I kind of just winged. I tried it a few times, & it didn’t always work out. Chris ate it with a smile, but maybe he actually liked it. I didn’t though. So I changed it little by little each time I tried it & finally figured out how to make it so we both liked it. Crispy but still full of flavorful beer with an amazing caramelized onion flavor. Yum! I want to eat it right now. I hope you enjoy just as much as I do.

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5 Tbsp olive oil
1 sweet onion
5 bratwurst
12 oz blonde ale

1.  Heat oil on low.
2.  Cook brats over low heat for about 5 minutes per side. Try to get as much of the surface spaced browned for an even cook.
3.  Add onions and raise heat to medium. Cook down onion for about 4 minutes or until soft, but not translucent.
4.  Add beer and cook covered. Allow beer to bubble up around brats.
5.  Once beer is reduced to half, uncover and continue to cook until only a small layer of beer remains. Onions will be caramelized.

Baked Tomato Mac and Cheese

It rained!! Rain was falling from the skies in California! I am so excited. My car is excited, the grass is excited, the avocados and oranges are excited! Everyone is excited! Haha

When I was living back east rain was nothing but a pain in the butt! It meant I had to pull out my umbrella, the streets were going to get dirty, and my poor little car would have water marks on it. Now, living through this crazy drought the west coast has been going through for the past three years, everyone gets so excited when it rains.

We drove up to Los Angeles to spend the weekend with Chris’s family and during our drive up the storm rolled into downtown L.A. It was pretty cool to be downtown during a lighting storm. People were pulling over and recording the thunder and lightning with their phones and taking pictures of the lighting bolts.

This was actually only the second time since I moved to California that I have heard thunder and I think it was my first time seeing lightning. It definitely made me miss the summer storms back east. A warm rain shower was always the best, being able to go to bed with the window open and hearing the sound of the rain outside.

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So now that you have the So Cal weather report, here is some blog news. I am finally starting to dive into Bloglovin’. What do you all think about it? Is it a good tool to find others and have readers find you? Follow me and let me know what you think about the site. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

This recipe I got from my cousin’s grandmother. I honestly can’t tell you the first time I had this but I remember as a child having it a lot. I don’t even know where. So last year I texted my cousin and said I needed the recipe. I was pleasantly surprised when she sent me it and it was even easier than I thought it would be. It sounds a little weird but it’s a great homey mac and cheese recipe. Enjoy!

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1 lb elbow macaroni
28 oz whole peeled tomatoes
½ stick unsalted butter
12-16 slices of white American cheese

1.  Boil pasta to time on box. Pre heat oven to 350˚.
2.  Spray 8 x 8 glass baking dish with non-stick spray and layer ¼ of macaroni along the bottom of the pan. Top with an even layer of cheese.4 slices should cover all the pasta. Squeeze 1-2 tomatoes, depending on size, on top of the cheese breaking apart the tomato and allowing the juices to cover the cheese. Place tablespoon sized slices of butter on top.
3.  Continue process until all pasta is used. Top later should have a layer of cheese. Pour remaining juices from tomato can on top.
4.  Cover with foil and bake 40-45 minutes, until edges are bubbly.

 

 

Mediterranean Spaghetti with Artichoke Hearts, Olives and Capers

It hasn’t been terribly hot here in SoCal this past week but the humidity is starting to really put a damper on things. We spent the day at Disneyland the other day & the weather literally felt like we had stepped into a time warp & landed at Disney World mid-August. It was so humid we didn’t even have the strength to really walk around & enjoy the park.

We hoped from store to store soaking in as much A.C. as we could get. I only got on about 3 rides, & one was indoor Space Mountain, so again… soaking in the A.C. I haven’t experienced a hot summer day in the Park that made me truly not want to be there, since I moved out here over five years ago. But we were committed to staying through at least the parade & fireworks show.

Since it is Disneyland’s 60th anniversary, they recreated & relaunched a lot of attractions to celebrate their Diamond Celebration. The firework show & Paint the Night Parade are two of the best shows I have seen in a long time.
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I am not a big parade watcher. I think they can really kill your day at the park. You have to stake out a seat hours beforehand, & then you are still crammed into a small space with hundreds of other people all trying to take the same picture & see the same thing. This parade, however, is probably one of the most entertaining, fun & impressive parades I’ve seen at Disney & is totally worth the wait in the heat.

Anyways, I digress. Back to the heat.

Needless to say the last thing I, or anyone we were with wanted was a heavy meal. So after much deliberation, we finally gave in & headed over to Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante, the Mexican restaurant right next to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad & had some carne asada Caesar salads. If there was about a table spoon of less salad dressing, it would have been the second best thing for a summer day next to jumping into the pool.

Fast forward to today, where I don’t go into work until after lunchtime, it’s again, kind of gross out. Best part, I am home alone so I can cook whatever I want for lunch & Chris can’t complain that he doesn’t like just about every ingredient I am putting into this pasta.

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This is a pasta that my mom loves to make during the summer also. It’s light, has a ton of flavor, & doesn’t need to be served piping hot, like how I like my pastas with red sauces. This is even a nice pasta you could make with really anything you have laying around, & it is great when you need to start clearing out the fridge of things that way have been in there for a little too long. Here is how I am making it today. Enjoy!

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Serves 2

1/3 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves
10 olives
3-4 marinated artichoke hearts
1 Tbsp capers
Salt and pepper
Red pepper flakes
2 cups spaghetti, cooked

1.  Boil water with a tsp of olive oil and a dash of salt. Once begins boiling, add spaghetti and cook to time on box.
2.  Saute garlic in olive oil for 2-3 minutes on medium heat until golden but not browned.
3.  Add olives, artichokes, capers and seasonings and continue cooking 5-8 minutes stiring every couple minutes. The artichokes with turn golden brown and olives will begin to wilt slightly when ready.
4.  Add pasta to saute pan and toss using tongs until pasta is totally covered by olive oil and veggies are dispersed evenly.

 

Turkey Tacos

It is very rare that I get a weekend day off being I work in retail but I absolutely love when I am off like the rest of the world. Weekends in Southern California can be so vast. You truly can go anywhere, & everywhere all in the same day.

We started our morning on Saturday heading down to the desert to pick up some wine at a few wineries that we are members at. Yes I said a few. We may have a slight problem of collecting wine clubs. I am a big fan of supporting small mom & pop shops. I will go to a home style restaurant before you ever see me at a Fridays or Applebees. (Don’t get me wrong, I love both of those places, but if I had the choice, the small window front restaurant is going to get my business first.) I love shopping at small retailers where not everyone is going to have the same thing as you. And I would shop at a farmers market every day if I could.

So when I first discovered Temecula, CA & the small wineries they had to offer, I said sign me up!

No but literally we signed up… a lot.

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It works out to about once a month we head down to the desert & pick up anywhere between 2 & sometimes even 9 bottles of pre-selected wines that the wine clubs pick out for us. Best part is, while we are there we are able to have a flight or glass for free.

So Saturday we headed down to Temecula, picked up some wine, had a glass & soaked up the sun.

After all of that sun I talked Chris into heading to the beach to watch the sunset, & he is such a great guy that we drove almost two hours out of the way to make it just in time to Dana Point and watch the sun set over the Pacific. It truly is an amazing view, & one of my favorite parts of living in California. I grew up at the beach but the quaint beaches of Long Island Sound got nothing on the cliffsides and waves of the Pacific Coast.

After sunset we drove up Pacific Coast Highway, through Laguna Beach (picking out restaurants and bars we want to try), & ended up at Balboa Island in Newport Beach.

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Balboa Island is known for two things: it’s cute beachside cottages that can run upward of a million dollars, and frozen bananas. YUM! There are two ice cream shops, about 500 feet from each other, that ironically, both claim to be the original home of the frozen banana. Now I don’t know who is embellishing, can honestly I don’t really care, but these things are amazing.

The only things that could have made the day any better was to stop at a little Mexican joint on the water, have some guacamole & of coarse… tacos. So instead. I decided I’d make my own.

Tacos growing up meant heavy McCormick’s seasoning, and hard taco shells. After Chris & I started dating, I began going to his house for dinner & that is when I saw true Mexican tacos, & how easy they can be to make! Lucky for me he was the seasoning taster in his family (aka the most judgmental about his tacos) so it didn’t take me too long to pick up how his mom made them.

I’m still working on the whole warming my tortillas up on the stove… for safety reasons of coarse. I am kind of a klutz. But this is one of my favorite go to recipes I have picked up. Try it out & of coarse, enjoy!

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1 lb turkey meat
Garlic salt, pepper
½ head iceberg lettuce
1 roma tomato or 12 grape tomatoes
¾ cup apple cider vinegar
½ avocado
cilantro, chopped

1.  Slice iceberg lettuce into ¼ inch slices, wash and dry lettuce. Wash and slice tomato into similar slices.
2.  Pepper to taste and soak in apple cider vinegar and set aside.
3.  Place ground turkey into heated skillet over medium heat. Cook over medium heat breaking up meat to small pieces. Season with garlic salt and pepper to taste.
4.  Once meat looks cooked through, lower heat and allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes stirring regularly.
5.  While meat simmers place tortilla over open flame, laying directly on gas burner. Once edges begin to curl slightly, flip using rubber coated tongs. **Be careful here! I’ve burnt myself a few times.
6.  Built taco using heated tortilla, turkey meat and topped with lettuce and tomato mixture. Top with salsa, diced avocado and cilantro.

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Blackened Shrimp Salad with Avocado Ranch Dressing

Sometimes summer in SoCal can be a little brutal. Even though we are just a 20 minute drive to Newport Beach, where it usually tops out at 85 degrees during the hottest months, we live & work as far east in Orange County as you can get so we get zero beach breeze during the summers. Between July, August & September it is very common for temperatures to hit triple digits! That’s right… we’re talking 102⁰ & 105⁰ degree days, 5-7 days a week.

Gross.

The last thing I want to do on days like that is turn on the stove or eat a heavy meal. This weekend we are heading down to Temecula Wine Country with Chris’s boss & his boyfriend for some wine tasting & relaxation. I figured I’d make us some light salads to come home to. It will be the perfect thing to have after a day of drinking in the hot desert sun. Also we can grill and keep the heat outside.

We eat salads here all year round but summer is my favorite time to try new ones. Chicken, fish, shrimp. Everything is fair game. So far, this is one of my favorite at home shrimp salads. Enjoy!

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Four salads:
2 medium heads of romaine lettuce
2 small sweet peppers, chopped
1 ear of corn on the cob, grilled and kernels removed
½ cup grape tomatoes, halved

Dressing:
½ cup Ranch dressing
½ avocado
Juice of a whole lime
4 Tbsp cilantro

Shrimp Seasoning:
¼ cup chili
1 Tbsp. dry mustard
1 Tbsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. black pepper

1. Mix shrimp seasoning together in deep bowl. Remove from bowl and place on parchment paper and allow to sit.
2. Compile salad using lettuce, peppers, corn, and grape tomatoes.
3. To make salad dressing blend Ranch dressing, avocado, lime juice and cilantro until smooth. Add more cilantro to taste.
4. Skewer shrimp 4-5 per skewer. Allow room in between each shrimp to cook.
5. Grill 3-4 minutes per side.
6. Toss salad with dressing and top with skewer of shrimp.