Sunday, May 22, 2011

Practice for Summer

A Saturday spent floating on the Santa Fe River/Ginnie Springs....

....followed by an amazing Jerk Burger at the Great Outdoors Restaurant?

House ground pork, smoky bacon, Vermont cheddar, apple slaw, served with sweet potato fries.

It's going to be a good summer.

Love to all,
~the "summer is so close I can taste it" gal, Jess

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I Heart Homebrew

It's been a while since I've touted about the wonders of beer, but I'm kind of a big fan. I even participated in Stubbie's 100 Beers in a Year challenge in 2009-2010. If you wondered why that fizzled out, I did get 60 in, but I just live too far way from the bar [just under an hour] to safely be successful at that challenge. Safety first, my friends.

The "failed" challenge was not a loss by any means, however. Not only did I have a blast blogging about my 60 different brewed adventures, I rekindled a friendship with a college buddy, Slim. After Slim stumbled across my blog on Facebook, we started chatting about styles of beer, beer advocate forums and the fact that Slim has started dabbling in homebrewing. Yeah, he's pretty much a badass, but I already knew that from our undergrad years.

However, when he offered to ship me some of his brewing samples from Austin, Tx where he currently resides, I pretty much jumped for joy. Would I like to try his homebrew? I would LOVE to.

Slim sent me 2 different beers to try: "Adam" or Adambier is a German style, high abv (alcohol by volume), dark, sour beer which Slim informed me he had been aging for two years.  The "IS" meanwhile is a year old Imperial Stout. 

I'm a total sucker for a sour beer (hello, Duchess is still my all time fave!) so we started with Adam. psst, by "we" I mean Christine, Ross and myself. They are my two favorite beer snobs, so it was only fitting we shared in the wealth of homebrew.


Honestly, my big girl words are failing me to describe how wonderful this beer was. I wish I could just loan you my taste buds and neurons so you could experience the wonderful crisp, sour combo of this beer. While Adambier is a dark beer, and according to the history, is traditionally hopped more heavily than other sour beers, I found this to be light and bright. Just perfect. My only complaint? That I only had one bottle and had to share it! ok, so I chose to share it, whatevs.

Next up was the Imperial.  This IS was bursting to get out of the bottle...literally.

Glug, glug, glug....but please don't chug.

No, you certainly would not want to chug this thick, creamy and slightly sweet stout. This would be the perfect "dessert" in my world and I enjoyed savoring the rich mouth feel as much as any chocolate ganache. 

"Adam" may have came out as my number main squeeze of the evening, but I would have loved to have more of the imperial on hand too. Slim, my wonderful friend, please don't stop brewing. You have a delicious talent and if you need me to try any of your next batch....well, you know what to do. Thank you again for sharing and letting me blather about the experience online.

Love to all,
~the, "it really pays to have talented, beer loving friends" gal, Jess

PS. Oh, and that whole perfect dessert idea? Technically both of the homebrew samplings were dessert, since Christine kindly whipped up a tasty dinner of some pesto gnocchi, asparagus and some yummy garlic bread from Fresh Market.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Brain Dump

That's what I've been doing the last week. I had a huge certification exam on Saturday and spent practically every night for the past 14 days with my nose crammed in a textbook. I guess my theory was if I crammed my nose in it, it would somehow get crammed in my brain? Yeah. Moving on.

Regardless, my meals haven't been uber creative or lovely. A little too much take out from my Beloved Akins BBQ; this study machine runs on sweet tea! That and my infamous trashcan salads.

 Bright, colorful, random, fresh and beyond all delicious! This one was no exception.

Base layer: one romaine heart, chopped.
Next: farm fresh (literally-there are some perks to working in the boonies) cucumber and tomato.
And: not at all local but so damn wonderful Hass avocado. (I don't know what crack Del Monte is putting in their 'cados this season, but they rock my world!)
Finally: Roasted baby Yukon Gold potatoes and zucchini, smoked salmon, and feta cheese. (yes, I got tired of taking a picture of each layer. What? I was hungry!).

Oh and folks, don't be deceived. That is not my usual dinner bowl (I have one that looks just like it, but only holds about 1/3 the volume), oh no, I was eating this "dump it all in salad" in the serving bowl. Licked that sucker clean.

Oh, and how did the brain dump go? Well, bowls aren't the only things I can "lick" around here. I took a hard couple of licks at that exam and passed it. Thank you Jesus. Or roasted veggies. Or giant trashy salads.

Love to all,
~the, "it's ok to be trashy and dump on it sometimes*, but only if you are colorful and classy about it" gal, Jess

PS. *Did anyone else get my Nicki Minaj reference there? Obsessed.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

What to eat when your birthday is on Easter

Why, Mexican of course!

Oh, the Easter dinner battle wages on in my family. Every year in my family, my parents and I host Easter dinner. And every year the chasm of disagreement on what we should serve rears it's ugly head.

Dad wants ham and sweet potatoes. I want lamb with spring greens. Mom just wants us to stop arguing.

This year however, I held the trump card. The "it's my birthday card."  And yet, even at 25 years of age, that card still isn't stronger than the "Dad card". So, I played the next best suit in my hand: the enchiladas compromise.

My mom has been making chicken enchiladas (casserole style) for as long as I can remember. My maternal grandfather is from Texas so Mexican food (or Tex-Mex!) has been a tradition in our family since long before my mother or I were born. Needless to say this meal is one that the whole family can agree on.

When I was a little girl I thought that these "special enchiladas" were a family secret recipe. Actually, no...they are simply a gem in this Texas cookbook.

The book always falls open to this much loved (and stained!) page. Well, and keeping some avocados stored in there helps, too.

If you are also having a family disagreement over dinner, give this compromise card a try yourself. Here is my take on the "secret family" recipe.

Chop and saute onions and green peppers.

Mix it up with a couple cups of shredded, cooked chicken and a can of green chilies.

We boil a whole chicken with some basic spices (salt, pepper, bay leaf), then skin and shred the meat, reserving the 2 cups of the broth for later in the recipe.

Set aside the chicken and veggie mixture.  Now let's work on the sauce.  

Create a spiced roux with coriander, cumin, flour and a touch of salt in butter over medium heat. Then slowly pour in the reserved broth and stir until smooth.

Turn off the heat and stir in ~ 2 cups of shredded monterey cheese (the cheddar will be for the topping). Stir until smooth and then add one cup of sour cream and mix until uniform.

Add ~1/2 a cup of the sauce to the chicken mixture and combine. This will be the filing for the enchiladas.

Set up the "assembly station" with the sauce, large tortilla shells and large casserole dish near by. A large dinner plate is used for filling and rolling the individual enchiladas, demonstrated below.

Dip a shell in the sauce, to coat. Add ~1/4 cup of filling. Spread the filling the length of the tortilla. Fold and roll up the shell. Transfer to the baking dish. Lick your fingers. Whoopsie! How did that last one get in here? (No worries, guys and gals, I didn't start licking my delicious, sauce coated digits until the pan was filled and finished!)

Pour the remaining sauce over the top of the rolled enchiladas and top with the remaining monterey and cheddar cheese, plus jalapenos and cilantro.

Even unbaked, so pretty and yummy!

I mixed up a batch of my famous guacamole*....

...while Dad stirred up "bad-ass margaritas"** 

Cold, refreshing and grandmother approved! 

We served the enchiladas (baked on the grill ~375 degrees F for 30 minutes) with the guac, refried beans and a topping bar.

My loaded plate.

No, sneaky Easter bunny...I'm not sharing a single bite. nom, nom, indeed!

And since it was a birthday/Easter celebration, I requested my favorite dessert: cheesecake.

For ease and convenience I picked up a variety platter from Publix. The chocolate swirl is my favorite. Just as good as homemade!

I was one stuffed birthday bunny by the end of that meal. Delicious beyond words and even more important- it wasn't ham! bahahah. 

Love to all,
~the, "I love it when I get my way, sort of" gal, Jess

*Jess' Guac (inspired by Rosa Mexican tableside guacamole service)
4 ripe avocados, peeled and cubed
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 medium tomato, diced
1 garlic clove, grated or finely chopped
juice of 1 small lime
sea salt, black pepper- to taste
fresh cilantro, chopped (if available-the selection was horrible at the store that weekend)

Mix together all ingredients together gently (you want it to be chunky) and serve with tortilla chips.

**Bad Ass Margarita's (Inspired by the Sweet Potato Queens)
1 12 oz can frozen limeade (partially defrosted-I usually pull it out of the freezer about 10 minutes before prep time)
12 oz tequila
12 oz 7-up soda
12 oz lager style beer (the original recipe calls for Corona, but I'm not a fan so my family usually uses Budweiser...but any lager or lite lager would work great).

Add the limeade to a large pitcher, then use the can to measure the rest of the ingredients. Stir gently and serve on the rocks in lime/salt rimmed glasses.

(Due to the carbonation in the beer and soda, please do not try to blend these, unless you enjoy cleaning kitchen floors, walls and ceilings. I don't.)