Blueberry Mojito – 4th of July Special

Happy Birthday America!!!

Blueberry Mojito #3

You are looking pretty good for being 239 years old. I’ll have to get the secret to how you stay looking so good for an old lady. I was feeling pretty patriotic lately and especially feeling the blueberries (see blueberry shortcakes). I was so excited about blueberries. I was instantly inspired to make a blueberry simple syrup and immediately knew that some sort of blue (er purple) cocktail was in my future. I probably should have thought harder about making a more American sounding cocktail but you know what…a cocktail is a cocktail!

Blueberry and Mint

The 4th of July has always had an impact on me. I think it might have something to do with the whole poetry of Thomas Jefferson being behind The Declaration of Independence and then passing away on the 4th of July 50 years later. Isn’t that so interesting?! As a Wahoo that might jut be a sign of my bias.

Muddling

There is the that whole narrative of how we became a country and an even stronger reminder that we are so young compared to all of those other countries out there. 239 years… that is nothing! When you travel the world you can usually stumble upon a landmark or work of art that has been on this planet for thousands of years. We haven’t even hit 500!

Blueberry Mojito #2

We might be young but it is clear that we are feisty and strong. I like that about us. I want to toast to that! I want to toast to the next 239 years and even though I wont be here to see them happen (that would be wild!!), I have no doubt that they are going to be pretty amazing. Especially, since the last 238 were quite something themselves.

Here is to you America! Happy Birthday you beautiful girl!

Blueberry Mojito

Blueberry Mojito
Yields 1 Mojito (clearly you will make more so feel free to double/triple/quadruple as needed)

Ingredients:
1 oz. Blueberry Simple Syrup (recipe blue)
1 Tbsp. Fresh Blueberries + a few for garnishing
1 1/2 Oz. Light Rum
4-5 Mint Leaves + stem for garnish
1 Tsp. Sugar
Club Soda
Ice
Muddler*

Instructions:
Add mint leaves, blueberries and sugar to a glass. Using a muddler gently muddle (smash) everything together. The mint leaves should break up a bit but you do not need want to over muddle or mash them. Add 1 oz of simple syrup followed by the rum. Add ice and club soda. Stir to combine all ingredients. Garnish with a few blueberries and mint. Enjoy!

*Muddlers range in price and style. No need to break the bank so get one that makes sense for your budget. If you don’t have one you can use a fork but be careful not to do too much damage to the mint leaves when mashing them up.

Blueberry Simple Syrup
Yields 1 Cup

Ingredients:
1 Cup Water
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Fresh or frozen blueberries

Instructions:
Add water and sugar to a small saucepan. Heat until the water comes to a boil and the sugar dissolves completely (about 3 minutes). Remove water/sugar mixture from heat. Place blueberries in a heat proof bowl. If using frozen berries make sure to let them thaw slightly before using. Gently mash blueberries with a fork. Pour syrup over blueberries and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Allow blueberries to steep in syrup for 20 minutes. Strain syrup to remove the blueberry flesh. Store in a container in the fridge until ready for use.

Chicago Style Hot Dogs

It’s summer so you know that means hot dogs!

Chicago Style Hot Dogs

I might have shared with you that I was born in Chicago. I actually lived in Chicago until I was about 2 years old, that is when my parents moved us to Pittsburgh. When I was a kid we would make trips back to Chicago from time to time. My dad’s family is from there and we would go back to see them or see some of my parents friends. Even though I only lived there as an infant I always had this strong connection to Chicago. The city certainly imprinted on me for the very beginning.

Hot Dog Toppings

It might be because I have strong family roots or maybe it is because the city has a way of winning everyone over the minute they arrive. When the hubby and I were talking about places to get married we didn’t take long to come up with Chicago. Everyone always asks why and I can’t understand why you need a reason to get married in Chicago. I think the real question is why not get married in Chicago?

1-IMG_2236

When we made our trips to Chi Town we followed certain rituals. My dad always played Lake Shore Drive by Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah when we pulled on to Lake Shore Drive. We would go to Giordano’s for stuffed pizza, the only pizza that really matters. And as this post would suggest, stop and get a real Chicago hot dog.

My Favorite Songs about Chicago (just a sample):

Chicago – Sufjan Stevens 

Homecoming – Kanye West & Chris Martin  

Lake Shore Drive – Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah

Lincoln Park Pirates – Steve Goodman

The real Chicago style hotdog has to be made a certain way. The dog has to be made with a beef hot dog with natural casing, the kind of hot dog that snaps when you bite into it. The dog has to be placed in a poppy-seed bun topped with a mountain of condiments – NO KETCHUP. Trying to eat it usually results in trying to keep all of the condiments on the hotdog as you take each bite. It really is a messy sight.

I am sure there are a few of you who are going to come at me with your New York Style hot dog or some other town with a famous dog. Let me just say that I love all hot dogs and I’ll top it with kraut and mustard, onions, chili, and any other thing that has come on a dog. I don’t hot dog discriminate but my absolute favorite is the Chicago style and it is the one I crave the most.

Whenever I eat a Chicago dog I think of my dad. He is a big hot dog guy and an even bigger Chicago hot dog guy. I can always count on him to join me in a dog. As the 4th of July approaches I hope you think of grilling some dogs and topping them with all of the best condiments. It may not be as great as the one you can get in Chicago but it will be pretty delicious.

Chicago Dogs

Chicago Style Hot Dog

Ingredients:
Hot Dog (All Beef)
Buns – poppy-seed are hard to come by outside of Chicago but if you find them get them!
Mustard
Relish
One Tomato
Kosher Pickle Spears
Sport Peppers or Pepprocinos
Celery Salt

Instructions:
Cut tomato in half and then in to slices or quarters, size depends on how much tomato you like. If using a whole pickle cut in to 4 spears. Grill or steam hot dogs. Place in bun and top with all of the condiments. Finish with a light sprinkle of celery salt. Enjoy!

If you like this post you should also check out…

Homemade Hackney Burger 

Blueberry “Shortcake”

Another blueberry treat!

Blueberry "shortcakes"

Before I get started on why this is probably the most delicious thing ever I want to take some time to have some blogging real talk. Real talk – blogging can be stressful sometimes. I was trying to plate this dessert and of course everything was working against me. I tried three different plating methods and I tried to get the perfect dollop of whipped cream. I was probably cursing more than was necessary during this whole ordeal. In my real life I would have thrown this all on a plate while simultaneously scooping pieces in to my mouth. Since I have a blog that is certainly not going to fly as a plating and presentation method. I am not sure I have come across a blogger who is showcasing food in a way that might resemble what is actually on my dinner table. I think I see an opportunity here guys! I might have to just show you a normal night at my dinner table (spoiler alert: my table is currently covered in mail, camera things, and magazines no one is reading). When you are only cooking for two you end up not using your table as much as you’d like. Usually we just clean off enough so we can squeeze our plates on the table without having to move the debris.

Sweet Cornbread Muffins

I am slightly embarrassed to admit this. I started this blog because of my own upbringing which involved sitting down to dinner at a table every night. I recall that we always had to clear the table, set the table, and then after dinner we were responsible for clearing off the table. I don’t ever remember our table being piled with mail and other non-edible items. Would it surprise you to know that I am typing this while sitting at the dining room table? What does your dining room table look like? Do you have any good tricks and tips for keeping it clear of clutter? I want to hear your thoughts on this subject, leave your comments below.

Blueberry Shortcakes

I decided to make this dessert using cornbread instead of biscuits or angle food cake. I wanted a dessert that was sweet and summery and yet different than everything you might usually expect. My southern voice was talking loud and clear as I came up with this little morsel. My southern side needs to come out more because clearly it is crazy and colorful and we need more of that in Pittsburgh. I think I’ll have to start channeling that more often when I am in need of inspiration.

Aerial shortcake

The best way to make this is of course by using the freshest blueberries and I think that means you may want to visit your local farmers market. I also made my own whipped cream which is easy to do so no excuses! I hope you make this for your summer picnic or bbq. If you want to make it right now and eat it before anyone else can I don’t judge…enjoy!

Blueberry “Shortcake”

Yields 6 Individual Cakes
-or-
1 Cake

Ingredients:
1 Cup Fresh Blueberries
1 Pkg. Cornbread Mix
1/4 Cup Honey
1 Egg
1/3 Cup Milk
1 Pint Whipping Cream
4 Tbsp. Sugar Divided
Zest of 1 Lemon
Juice of 1 Lemon
1 Tsp. Vanilla Extract

Instructions:
Rinse blueberries and add to a small bowl. Toss blueberries in 2 tbsp. sugar, 1 tsp. lemon zest and 1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice. Place blueberries in the fridge until ready for use.

Preheat oven to 400. Prepare a muffin pan by spraying with cooking spray or lightly coating in butter to prevent sticking. Combine honey, egg, and milk in a small bowl and whisk until blended. Add milk and egg mixture to the cornbread mix. Stir to combine, batter may be slightly lumpy. Let batter sit for 5 minutes before filling muffin tin with 1/4 cup batter. Bake in oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

While cornbread muffins are cooling prepare the whipped cream. To make the whip cream combine the cream, the additional 2 tbsp. of sugar, 1 tsp. lemon zest, 1 Tsp. lemon juice and vanilla. Using a whisk attachment on a stand mixer whisk until the cream starts to thicken. Whip until cream is thick and soft peaks are formed, careful not to over whisk. Remove blueberries from fridge and assemble shortcakes.

Assemble shortcakes by slicing the cornbread muffins in half horizontally (creating a top and bottom). Spoon a tbsp. of blueberries on bottom, top with a dollop of whipped cream. Top with second piece of muffin and few more blueberries and a finishing touch of whipped cream. Garnish with any remaining lemon zest and serve.

To prepare as a large cake follow the same steps but bake the cornbread in a cake pan. Once cooled slice the cornbread cake horizontally (a cake knife would be the best tool to cut) and top as you would the individual muffins.

BBQ Chicken Pizza

MMMmmmm Pizza…

BBQ Chx Pizza

I know it is not Friday or even remotely close to it but I just couldn’t resist. This pizza is like my all time favorite comfort food. I seriously cannot ever turn down a BBQ chicken pizza. The weird thing is they aren’t all that easy to come by, which is crazy! If you have ever dined at California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) then you probably have encountered the BBQ Chicken Pizza. It is delicious! It changed the way I looked at pizza. I now know that you can put anything on pizza and it will probably be delicious. I have had egg, clams, potatoes, every vegetable imaginable, pickles, and all were yummy. (Not all on the same pizza)

Whenever the hubs and I are debating what to make for dinner we usually get to a point where one of us suggests pizza. Of course we both agree and then decide that we have to make pizza that requires thought and preparation. What is wrong with us? We can never make just a regular pepperoni or cheese pizza. Side note: I do not eat pepperoni pizza and basically refuse to order it always. I will however make BBQ chicken pizza or some sort of veggie pizza any time and any place. I also like to make pizzas with all the cheeses and roasted red peppers or sun-dried tomatoes. You might also find me messing around with cured meats of some kind. The truth is, I will take BBQ chicken over any and all of it.

Grilled Pineapple

There is something about BBQ that is really comforting. It makes me think of summer and being a little girl playing in the backyard while my parents plan some delicious summer feast. It makes me think of eating with my hands and being intentionally messy. I think about sweet and tangy sauce all over my face and not being bothered at all. When you combine all of those memories in to a dish that is über comforting like pizza you might find it hard to say no. Also, I added grilled pineapple (I Know RIGHT?!?!?) which probably took this pizza to the next level for us.

Chx Tender

Can we pause for a second. I need to take a minute to talk about this whole life business. Do you ever have days where you think you are just not winning at this life stuff? I sometimes find myself in these moods where I feel like I am completely falling behind on all of the things I am supposed to be doing in my life. I feel like I made this vow to be more involved and then I find myself wishing I had not made that vow. I am not sure if I feel overwhelmed or if I am feeling like there are too many things I could do and not enough time to do them? Where is all of the time?

Pizza slices

This pizza helps! I can do more adulting after enjoying my favorite pizza in the entire world. I think if you make this pizza you are going to feel much better about life too. Alright, off I go to be productive. Really must be productive! I hope you love this pizza because I love it.

BBQ Chx Pizza #2

BBQ Chicken Pizza 

Yields 1 Pizza

Ingredients:
Prepared Pizza Dough (I use Trader Joe’s)
4-5 Chicken Tenders
1 Red Onion
2 Fresh Pineapple Slices
BBQ Sauce (we LOVE Sweet Baby Ray’s)
1 Pkg. Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
Cilantro (Optional)
2 Tbsp. Canola Oil
1/2 Cup Cold Water

Instructions:
I marinate my chicken strips in a simple marinade of chicken seasoning, salt & pepper, canola oil, and garlic powder. Feel free to marinate them however you like, anything goes!

While the chicken marinates, slice the red onion in to 1/2 inch slices and soak in cold water. The water helps to take away some of the bite of the red onion. Brush grill with canola oil before preheating. Once preheated place pineapple slices on the grill over low heat. Pineapple contains sugar which will cause it to burn faster to keep a close eye on them. Flip after 1 minute or 2 and grill on the other side. Remove the pineapple slices and allow to cool before dicing in to small pieces.

Place marinated chicken strips on the grill and cook 3-4 minutes on each side or until done. In the last minutes of cooking brush some bbq sauce on them so they get a good coating. Remove cooked chicken from grill and dice in to bite sized pieces.

Assemble pizza by rolling out dough to desired thickness. Apply bbq sauce to the dough instead of pizza sauce. Top with the red onion, chicken, pineapple and cheese. Bake in an oven at 425 for 10-12 minutes or until crust starts to brown and cheese is melted. Remove from oven and garnish with chopped cilantro and balsamic glaze*. You can also cook this on the grill if you are inclined.

*I purchased my balsamic glaze but you can make this on your own by heating balsamic vinegar with sugar or honey in a pan and letting it simmer until it reduces to become a sticky syrup texture. This takes time so you might want to just buy it so you always have some on hand!

Memorial Day Favorites

Memorial Day is on Monday and that means summer is here!! Did you know that Memorial Day was called Decoration Day? When I first saw that I pictured a day where we could show off fancy decorations. What if we decorated our homes for Memorial Day like we decorate our homes for Christmas? That would probably look very strange. I learned recently that there is supposed to be a national moment of silence at 3:00PM on Memorial Day. Did you know that? I am sure if you are out at a ball game or national memorial you will notice this. Now that you know maybe you can do this at your family picnic or BBQ.

I am so excited to get my grill on this weekend and since it’s the start of summer that means lots of grilling and picnics to be had in the near future. Here are some recipes to get your summer off to a great start:

BBQ Baby Back Ribs

BBQ Baby Back Ribs

Greek Pasta Salad

Greek Pasta Salad

Pimm’s Cup 

Pimm's Cup

Little Italy Burger 

Little Italy Burger

 Ice Cream Sandwiches

Ice Cream Sandwiches

Have a fun and safe holiday weekend!