Doing what you love, sometimes means…


Missing you…

Hey, hi there…have you missed me?

I didn’t mean to be away so long, but I’ve had to prioritize lately….

1.) Family, 2.) Real Estate, 3.) Social Media Consulting, 4.) Holiday Baskets…volunteer work…cats…eat….sleep…repeat…

B & W Barn

Yeah, it’s that time of the year.  The world switches into hyper-drive; what’s that about “falling back”?  Does that work for you?  Me, most days I feel like there’s not enough minutes in the day to get it all done.  But I’ve gotten really good at lists…and prioritizing…and not getting distracted.  It’s hard, with the majority of my businesses being online.  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ ….all things I help my clients navigate through, all things I have to stay away from myself, for fear of falling down the rabbit hole and next thing I know, I’ve wasted an hour (or more!) of my life.  Do you feel this way somedays?  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE what I do!  I wouldn’t change any of it, not for a minute!  Oh, expect for maybe getting to do more of this…cooking & sharing with you!  We LOVE this recipe and I hope you will too!  Oh and please forgive the crappy iPhone pictures…I had just barely enough time to take them at all!

Chicken & Cabbage Panade

So,  back when I was younger, alot, and without kids, and not married, I worked at the most wonderful Bed & Breakfast in the upper Midwest.  If you haven’t been, you must go….it’s called The Rosewood Inn, in Hastings, Minnesota.  I’ve stayed in many of the rooms, and cleaned all of them at one time or another.  When you work at a B & B, you end up doing many different tasks, something I’ve always enjoyed.  I learned to clean rooms (and almost every one of them had a fireplace-wood burning and a jacuzzi, so I got a really good at cleaning both!) do laundry, and not everyday, but many, I would find myself at the end of my shift, helping to prep the welcome snack (fresh baked cookies) and sometime’s the evening’s meals.  If my shift started early enough, I would get to make breakfast…and oh, how I loved those breakfast’s!!! Swiss Biscuit Eggs… Popover Pancakes…Minnesota Wild Rice Quiche…Caramel Apple Bread Pudding…oh my!

But dinner is where I fell in love, with the recipes that I still make today.  I learned my love of Spinach Salad with Strawberries, fresh Parmesan topped with a sweet & sour Poppy seed dressing.  I sautéed my first Shallots there…made my first ever Mushroom Pate which I placed gently inside my first ever Beef Wellingtons.  Oh. My. Gosh.  We used to make this crazy dish called Pasta Torte; it was a spaghetti dish, mixed with lots of other delicious things (herbs, cheese, including cottage cheese etc.) and baked in a springform pan.  I’ve never actually made it at home, but have the recipe if you want to give it a shot!  I just might have to now that I am thinking about it…give my pans another use besides cheesecake!

But let’s talk about this dish.  It’s a take on the French Onion Soup.  Baked at the Inn, in large soup tureens.  But it also has cabbage…lots of it…and carrots…and onions.  And Chicken and bread and cheese, oh my!  I’ve used fresh cut green cabbage and sometimes I’ve cheated and grabbed a bag or two of the Coleslaw mix you find in the salad section at the grocery store.  Here’s what you need:

Chicken Cabbage Panade:

Green Cabbage, diced as small as you like it

Carrots, thinly sliced

(or as stated above, grab a bag of coleslaw mix from the salad section at the grocery store!)

one medium yellow (sweet) onion, diced

2 tablespoons butter

2 +/- tablespoons of Olive Oil

Chicken…yes, whatever kind you want, however much you want!  (don’t freak out…the original recipe called for the meat off of one whole bone-in chicken breast, but if you’ve been following along this blog for awhile, you’ll remember that I prefer Thighs over Breasts, so I used two nicely sized Thighs, skin-on, that I baked, cooled, removed the meat from and chopped beforehand and oh yeah, I chopped up that crispy skin in small pieces and used that too!)

Loaf of French Bread, sliced and lightly toasted on both sides

Swiss Cheese, finely shredded, 1/2 cup +/-

Parmesan Cheese, finely shredded, 1/4 cup +/-

Chicken Stock/Broth, 3 cups +/-

salt, pepper, fresh chopped garlic

Saute Cabbage & Carrots-Add Chicken

Once you’ve chopped everything up, heat up a deep sauté pan, and add the butter & olive oil.  Once hot, add the onions and sauté until they start to turn translucent.  Then add the carrots.  Sauté this a bit, maybe five or so minutes and then add the cabbage.  I like to cook this awhile, until everything is tender.  It will cook a bit more in the oven, but I like most of the work to be done in the pan first.  Season with salt, pepper & chopped garlic.  Remove from heat.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Toast Bread-Place one layer in bottom of Casserole dish

While you are sautéing the veggies, you can toast your bread, either in the toaster if you prefer, or placed on a pizza/cookie sheet and under the broiler.  Get both sides golden brown…this just helps to add flavor and keep the bread from getting too soggy and disintegrate in the dish.  Take a casserole dish and place a layer of toast in the bottom.

1st layer, top with bread, then cheese

On top of the first layer of toasts, add a layer of the cabbage/carrot/onion mixture.  Then another layer of toasts, and sprinkle some of both cheeses over this.

Finish layering, top with cheese, pour stock over

Continue this process, until you’ve reached the top of the casserole dish and hopefully run out of ingredients!  (oh, also, I like to be sure the very top has a couple pieces of toast, so they get topped with cheese)  Take the chicken stock/broth and pour slowly over the dish, attempting to get all of the dish somewhat saturated.  It shouldn’t be too “soupy” if that makes any sense.  You  want moisture, but not soupy…got it?  Pop it in the oven for 20 minutes.

After the first twenty minutes, carefully pull out and place more cheese on top, if you have any left….so you are making a second crispy layer of cheesy goodness! 🙂  Pop back in the oven for another 20 minutes.

Plated Chicken & Cabbage Panade

You’ll know it’s done, when its bubbly and the cheese is a gorgeous golden color.  Remove from oven and let cool for ten minutes or so.  It will be easier to remove from the dish if you wait a bit.

Some of my other fall favorites I want to share with you…….

Are you looking for a new twist on the traditional Chili?  Then you have to try The Realistic Housewife’s Apple, Squash & Sausage Chili…  It’s SO good!

And if you haven’t had your fill of Pumpkin recipes yet, be sure to give Ambitious Kitchen’s Spicy Black Bean Chicken Enchiladas with a Pumpkin Sour Cream Sauce a whirl.  Fall with a Mexican spin!

Fall always gets me craving anything with (red) Cabbage and I blogged about Red Cabbage braised in Cider & Beer for one of my Beer for a Year posts last year.  More cabbage = fall deliciousness!

I am looking forward to trying these Crispy Risotto Balls with Truffle Honey this holiday season! I’ve pinned it to my “Small BitesPinterest Board, which has lots of other great “small bites” ideas!


The above picture is one I have on my Social Recipes Pinterest Board…it’s been repined over a hundred times!  I’d love to have you follow me on my Your Social Recipes blog as well!  I love pictures with quotes…

Well lovelies, until next time…not sure when that will be…but hopefully soon!

Cheers, Shawn

It’s Minnesota State Fair time…visiting with a farmer & more!

MN State Fair Logo

Hello food-lovin’ friends!  I have finally emerged from the “rabbit hole” this week (more on that later…) and am happy to celebrate the start of our beloved Minnesota State Fair!  And, as most of us can appreciate, the temperatures are making their way back up into the high 80’s & low 90’s just in time for the Fair!  Come on, you know you love the great Minnesota “sweat-together”…. the packed streets of the Fair when it’s hot & muggy….the constant barrage of smells from the food stands, mixing in with the earthy (= sweaty) farm animals, filling the air.  Corn dogs & Pronto Pups…mini donuts & funnel cakes…French fries & chocolate chip cookies in buckets (although not together…hmmm, but that might be good!!!)…fresh roasted Corn and more things on a stick, than, well, you can shake a stick at!  Sorry, I couldn’t help myself 🙂

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 2.49.46 PM

And of course, everyone is always excited when the New Fair Foods list is unveiled…this year, surprisingly there is only one thing on that list I am going to be sure to get; the Pork Belly Sliders at O’Gara’s…along with an order of Blarney Beans (above…can you guess what they are?) and likely a cold Finnegan’s at the same time!

Collins Family Farms logo

This year however, I have a couple new stops on my list of must do’s, and one of those is to meet up with a local farmer who will be at the Minnesota Farm Bureaus’s building, the day my family & I visit the Fair.  His name is Nathan Collins and along with his brother Sean, they operate Collins Family Farms, located in Murdock, Minnesota.  I love sharing little peeks into the lives of those I meet, and emailed Nathan a few questions I thought my readers would like to know more about.  He very quickly agreed, and provided me with some really great insight & honestly, into all things Minnesota family farming.  Here’s our interview:

Me:  How long have you been on (working) the farm and was it something you always (knew) wanted to do?
Nathan:  I grew up on the site where the farm is currently located. I did not have a passion for the farm growing up but came to appreciate what it offered when I was in college and decided at that time to go home and farm.   I have been farming now for 10 years with my brother and our family .
Me:  On your website, the farm is referred to as a “family owned, cash crop operation” can you tell me what that means?
Nathan:  My brother and I own the farm and we raise crops, corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and cattle, that we sell on the open market. My brother and I operate the farm but it is a true family business as other siblings and parents are also involved.
Me:  Tell me a bit about what you grow/raise….
Nathan:  On our farm we raise corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and cattle. The corn and soybeans are sold locally and then shipped to other markets. The corn is sold to ethanol plants, feedlots, a local dairy and foreign markets. The cattle we have are used for breeding and the meat market.  The sugar beets are sent to the cooperative where they’re converted into sugar and other byproducts that are used to feed cattle and other livestock.
Me:  Tell me something you want my readers to know about Collins Family Farm…
Nathan:  We are a family run farm that is very committed to promoting agriculture while growing our business to provide a future for the next generations to come . Farmers are some of the best conservationist in the world because we need the land to live on. Therefore we take the best care of everything we have because our life depends on it.
Me:  There’s all this talk about GMO’s and for the average home cook, it’s hard to wrap your head around that and make educated decisions regarding the food we buy for our families.  Can you simplify that for us and tell us where you stand on it?
Nathan:  GMO’s have been around for centuries. If it were not for GMO’s there be a lot of starving people in this world. They have allowed us to produce more with less and that is a very common theme you’ll find with most any farm. I also would not grow anything that I would not feed to my own children. They enjoy walking through the fields with me as do my brothers children. There is no way we would grow anything that would harm them. Since I have started farming we have produced more with less year after year and will continue to do the same to provide the lowest priced high quality food of anywhere in the world.
Unloading Cows-Collins Family Farms
Nathan:  If you look on our About Us page on the website you’ll see our mission statement. We are committed to God and our family. We feel very blessed to be able to raise our children in the best place on earth, teach them work ethic and provide a living for ourselves and those that work with us on the farm everyday. I haven’t worked a day in 10 years because I love what I do and have a passion to provide and enhance the business of Agriculture to those in the general public.
Me:  Thank you Nathan for letting us get to know you & your family farm!  I look forward to meeting you on Tuesday, August 27th, at the Fair!
Side note:  if you are interested in learning more about GMO’s you can visit a new website dedicated to answering questions about just that:
MN Farm Bureau at the Fair
In addition to being able to meet Nathan and other great Minnesota Farmers, the MN Farm Bureau is excited to announce the return of the Ag Cab Lab Virtual Tractor and Combine!  
The Minnesota Farm Bureau (MFB) Foundation has brought back the chance to virtually cultivate, plant and harvest a field at the Minnesota State Fair with the Ag Cab Lab. The Ag Cab Lab – Combine is located in the Farm Bureau building and the Ag Cab Lab – Tractor is located in the CHS Miracle of Birth Center, giving kids and adults two chances to sit inside a real tractor or combine cab and learn about farming today.  Both the CHS Miracle of Birth Center and the Farm Bureau building are open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. for kids and adults to visit the Ag Cab Lab during the 12 days of the Minnesota State Fair, August 22-September 2.
Whistling Well Farm Levi's Lost Calf
And also exciting for the kiddos is The Great Minnesota Book Bonanza!  It’s a free activity for kids, (held weekdays) where Minnesota children’s book authors will read at 10:30 am and 1:00 pm in the Minnesota Farm Bureau building.  Great books include:  Levi’s Lost Calf  will be featured on August 22nd and 23rd, Emmy of Whistling Well Farm will be featured the 27th and 28th and If I Were a Farmer is on the 29th and 30th.  They are hoping to have a few readings of Little House on the Prairie mixed in as well.  Be sure to “like” Minnesota Farmers CARE on Facebook to stay up-to-date on all the happenings at the Fair!
As always, thanks for reading along and if you see me at the Fair, be sure to say hello!  And I will share a little peek into what’s been happening in my life real soon, I promise!

Where have I been…?

Dad's 70th

Hello lovelies!

I am SO sorry I’ve been away…fallen off the blogging train…but I have really good reasons why, the biggest of which I can’t share with you yet!  It’s a big Career/Life change for me and I have to wait until the timing is right, to share/announce it to the world, so I hope you’ll hang in there on that!  And I know I promised you a summer filled with “sippers” and salads…and sadly, I had to put that on the back burner for now.  Hopefully I will get to share at least a couple more posts, with some of the salads & sippers I have enjoyed over the summer, so stay tuned and thank you for your understanding!

But aside from that, I have also been busy with family stuff…my Dad turned 70 last week and we had an intimate little gathering at his new house, not too far from where I live.  My family life is complicated (isn’t everyone’s?) and with that said, the nicest part of his celebration was having ALL five of his children (two of which flew in from Portland – all from three different marriages – ranging in age 7 up to 45…there’s the complicated part!) here to celebrate with him!  He said it was one of the best times of his life, so I know we did a good job!  My Dad is a pretty simple guy, he loves to eat (something we obviously have in common!) he loves to relax & listen to music, and when asked what he wanted for his birthday, his response was pajamas!

And a band…and a keg…and cake.


photo2 photo

(sorry about the bad picture quality…it was getting dark & I didn’t want to blind him with my flash!)

I found my Dad some fun pj’s, as he wished, with super heroes on them. I thought it was  appropriate for all he’s been going through lately.  And how fun is for him to feel like Superman when he’s 70?!?!  🙂  One of the best parts of the evening, besides the ridiculous (as in good) cake he made me make him…(it was a homemade chocolate cake-which you’ll never believe, I’ve never made before) was the entertainment my Dad hired himself. (see above) His name is Loren Wolfe and you have to consider him for your next event!  He does a lot of music from Willie Nelson & Johnny Cash, two of my Dads favorites.  We had a very small group, so he just set himself up on a bar stool and sang whatever we asked him to!  He changed into different costumes throughout the night as well!  It was a perfect thing for our small group and something my Dad will never forget!  Thank you Loren! ❤

The cake

Oh, and that first-time-ever-made cake…it also had homemade chocolate fudge frosting, you know, the kind you cook and it hardens after you’ve frosted the cake.  But he just didn’t want that particular frosting, it also had to be a minimum of an inch thick!  Let’s just say, the cake was amazing, but we all groaned afterwards from the sweetness of it all!  And, I think he’s put on five pounds in the past week just trying to finish it before it goes bad!  If you are interested in the cake recipe, you can find it here.  The frosting is a keeper and both of my kids favorite part.  You can find the frosting recipe here.



Declaration reading

Beyond the birthday boys celebration, we’ve tried to grab ahold of summer as tight as we can and enjoy every beautiful summer day, of which we’ve been blessed with many, this summer.  We’ve done tons of hiking, exploring the gorgeous Minnesota State Parks we are fortunate to live close to.  I’ve grilled & smoked as often as possible and have discovered a few new favorite dishes I hope to share soon.  (like Watermelon Pickles!) And I think I figured out what the heck I’ve been doing wrong with my fresh Ricotta cheese…sorry to those I’ve had to practice on.

Watermelon Pickles

Oh and a few cocktails have been had…can you say Watermelon & Malibu Black Mojitos? 🙂

Watermelon Mojitos Malibu Black Mojitos

We spent a fun day watching our local parade for the 4th of July, just before that, got to listen to a reading of the Declaration of Independence, and than after, grilling out with family and sneaking off the watch the fireworks in a favorite spot.  Things have started to cool off a bit, which I am kind of bummed about…there’s just something about the hot, hot heat…the kind that heats you to your core, that I love about summer.  Our garden has been kicking out kale, radishes, beets, yellow beans, and zucchini.  With this colder weather, I am worried about our tomatoes, peppers and so far, it looks like we’ll actually get Fennel & Corn this year!  I am not ready for jeans & sweatshirt weather, so get it together Mother Nature!


Okay, some other exciting news……

I’ve been approached lately, asking to volunteer on some really great events, most of which I’ve had to say no, for now.  With all that I am juggling, I just don’t think I can do the job right, so sadly, I’ve passed on some really fun things!  One of those, was to help judge the Uptown Art Fair’s Culinary Arts Competition again this year.  It’s happening right now, this weekend and if you’ve never been, GO!  Lot’s of my Fortify friends will be there, so be sure to stop and say hi to those lucky food bloggers, photographers & media peeps helping crown another champion this year!  You can read more about my adventure from last year here.  (oh & in case you are wondering, the picture is Chocolate-Beer Risotto…with grapes…yep.)

Gorgeous painting... DSCN5520IMG_9934IMG_9906

One opportunity I just couldn’t pass up, was to work with the Minnesota Farm Bureau in helping to spread the word about some of the exciting things that will be happening at the Minnesota State Fair this year.  Briefly, there will be live author readings and everyday from 9:00am-9:00pm. They will have Minnesota farmers from across the state available to answer questions consumers may have regarding farm life and food topics. There will also be the Ag Cab Lab–which gives kids the opportunity to sit in a real combine and virtually drive the equipment!

Minnesota CARE

Be sure to “like” the Minnesota Farmers CARE Facebook Page and stay tuned here on my blog, for more information as we lead up to the “Great Minnesota Get-Together”!

Next post coming at you soon……until then, have a great weekend food-lovin’ friends!

Cheers, Shawn

Summer Sippers, Beer…


What’s more American than Beer? Okay, well maybe not…

According to Wikipedia, “Ale is one of the oldest beverages humans have produced, dating back to at least the 5th millennium BC and recorded in the written history of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.  Beer was part of the daily diet of Egyptian Pharaohs over 5,000 years ago. Then, it was made from baked barley bread, and was also used in religious practices.  Beer was one of the most common drinks during the Middle Ages.  Today, the brewing industry is a huge global business, consisting of several multinational companies, and many thousands of smaller producers ranging from brewpubs to regional breweries.”

But we American’s do love a frosty cold one, on a hot summer’s day, don’t we?!?!  I’m usually a wine girl myself but lately we’ve been drinking more beer…helping to beat the heat wave that is slightly giving us a reprieve this week.  All in time for the 4th of July!  So I thought what a better time to highlight cocktails made with beer than this week!


Surprisingly, this post was harder to do than expected…we need more cocktails made with beer people!  Although, as I said before, not much is better on a hot summer’s day, then a cold frosty one, noting the picture above, it was a hot day and these Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss were floating in an icy cold bath!  I originally planned on sharing a recipe for a Dark & Stormy, but as you’ll read below…it’s not really a beer cocktail!  So, sadly I didn’t have time to do a separate recipe myself this week.  I wanted to be able to get this out before the 4th of July this week!


I did however find this GREAT recipe for Dad’s Killer Beergarita’s, as shown in the picture above, and being an Iowa girl myself, I can totally get behind this drink!  Be sure to visit Kristin at Iowa Girl Eats for the recipe and 25 Fresh 4th of July recipes!  I am loving her blog!

As I said before, I had planned on making a Dark & Stormy for you this week, as I have been dreaming about it for quite some time!  So I was surprised to learn that Ginger Beer isn’t actually Beer, and thought about not including it here in this post, but it’s so prevalent when you search for “cocktails made with beer” that I wanted to include it, but giving you the information that I learned along the way…

Wikipedia noted on this page that “The ginger beer soft drink may be mixed with beer (usually a British ale of some sort) to make one type of shandy, or with dark rum to make a drink, originally from Bermuda, called a Dark ‘N’ Stormy. It is the main ingredient in the Moscow Mule cocktail (although in some cases ginger ale is used as an alternative, where ginger beer is not available). Another variation is a mix of three bar shots of Canadian (rye) whisky to four parts Crabbies Alcoholic Ginger beer, to make a cocktail called The Angry Teacher. This drink originated in Canada in the early twenty-first century.”

ginger beer photo

So there.  You’ve been schooled in Ginger Beer! 🙂

If you want to try one for yourself, this one from Nutmeg Nanny includes a Lime Bitters and looks delish!  She’s also got her own series going, The Boozy Days of Summer with some great cocktail ideas!

The Irish in me loves a Guinness and the thought of putting anything other than another Irish beer to make a Black & Tan, into it, makes me feel like I am violating the Irish rule of beer drinking…but this Pineapple Mint Beer Cocktail made with Guinness by Food Fashion and Fun looks ridiculous!

Here is a link to a couple of beer drink ideas, the Briar Patch and the White Plume both from the Chilled Magazine site.

One thing I am constantly craving is a good Bloody Mary, (you know, the kind with a meat stick, cheese, olives…a salad on the side almost!) and this Michelada on Food52 looks just as delicious without the fuss of a beer on the side!  This post also walks you through the process of making it!

And oh, this Pear Ginger Beer Cocktail and the pictures that go with the post on Use Real Butter looks SO delish!

Wishing you & yours a wonderful, hot eats, cool drinks and a safe & happy 4th of July!

Cheers, Shawn

Summer of Salads, Chicken…

Smoked Chicken Salad REC

Prior to getting my smoker, Smoked Chicken would be something I would rarely get the opportunity to enjoy, but when I did…oh, I did!  So, this year when we picked up our portion of chickens from our friends in Hugo that raise & process them for us, I knew some of these little babies were going in the smoker!  We had a friend over the night we made them, and I had smoked three chickens, planning for dinner that night and then making BBQ Chicken sandwiches for a family get together the next day.  This friend, whom I treasure, loved the Chicken SO much I was worried he’d eat it all and I wouldn’t have any left for the next day’s festivities!  So awesome!

One thing I love to do when smoking or even baking my chicken, is to brine it the day before.  It helps to make the chicken much more tender and delicious!  The friend that does our chickens for us, shared the following brine recipe I highly recommend!


Brine Recipe:

Makes one gallon of brine.

3 lemons, cut in half

1 cup kosher salt

3/4 cup brown sugar

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons whole peppercorns

3 (I used roasted) Jalapeños seeds removed

fresh herbs…we used lots of lemon thyme, oregano, chives

if fresh is not available, use at least 1 tablespoon of dried basil, oregano & thyme

1 gallon cold water

Use a bucket or container large enough to hold the chicken and the brining liquid.  I actually used a pickle bucket for my three chickens, but if you have a large pasta pot, or even a roasting pan, you can use that too.  Just be sure to get most of the chicken submerged for most of the time.  If you need to go in and move the chicken around, that’s okay too.  Keep your chicken refrigerated & in the brine for 24 hours before cooking if possible.  Once you are ready to cook the chicken, rinse it well under cold water and then add your rub or other seasonings.  Dispose of the brining liquid and clean your hands, counter & etc. well!

chicken on the smoker

BBQ Rub recipe:

1/2 cup paprika

1/4 cup kosher salt

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons mustard powder

1/4 cup chili powder

1/4 cup ground cumin

2 tablespoons black pepper

1/4 cup granulated garlic

2 tablespoons cayenne  (be careful, if you don’t like spicy BBQ, then dial back on this amount)

Jack Daniel's chips

Oh my gosh, can I just tell you about these chips?!?!  A friend of mine recommended these Jack Daniel’s brand wood chips to me, when she heard about my smoker.  I didn’t try them until recently, when I made this chicken actually, and now I want to use them all the time!!! They are GREAT!  They are about twice as expensive as basic chips, but when you are making something special, splurge and get yourself a bag! 🙂

Assorted chips

These WESTERN® BBQ Smoking Chips were what I used initially and I really liked them.  They come in a wide range of ‘flavors’.  I bought this Variety Pack my first time out.

Okay, so I know this post is titled Smoked Chicken, and I realize that not everyone has a smoker.  So, I want to show you a couple of ways you can smoke, without the smoker!  First, I have this Mini Smoker Box from Williams Sonoma and I love to use it on my grill!  It holds a small portion of whatever chips you have, and takes about 5-10 minutes to start smoking, but it works great for steaks, fish, vegetables, burgers & other deliciuosness from your grill!  And, oh my gosh, I totally want this Cast Iron Smoke & Sear Station wouldn’t that be fun!

When I first bought my Western chips, variety box, it had a small smoker tray in it, made specifically for grills.  They have a great video you can watch that shows you how to use the chips here.  And if you don’t want to fuss with any of the above, you can also try using a couple layers of aluminum foil.  The chips may burn up faster, so have a couple back up packs on reserve.  If you are using a smoker, you’ll want to soak the chips before using them, but if you are just using them on the grill, you don’t need to soak them, unless you are grilling something that takes awhile to cook.

Okay, time to get back on track!  This post is supposed to be about #summerofsalads!  Ha! 🙂

Salad Fixin's

So for this salad, you’ll want to gather your favorite greens, and then chop up your Smoked Chicken.  I added Black Beans, fresh roasted Corn-cut from the cob, chopped tomatoes, red bell pepper, hard boiled eggs and finished the salad with a small sprinkling of Parmesan cheese & crumbled Blue Cheese!  (have I mentioned I am a cheese-addict?) Be careful how much Blue Cheese you put on; you don’t want to drown out that smokey Chicken goodness!  Add any combination of “salad fixin’s” you like!  It’s your salad silly!

Smoked Chicken Salad up close

Now look at that beauty!  I hope you’ll try some of my suggestions for “smoking” chicken on your grill soon!  Let me know if you do & share what you tried!


Have a wonderful 4th of July & Happy Birthday America!

Cheers, Shawn

Summer Sippers, Tequila…

Margarita SQ

I love Margarita’s….always have.  Over the years, I’ve refined my taste for them…originally loving the super sweet, slushy kind you get from one of those big Margarita machines, but now loving the traditional kind, good tequila, lime juice, ice, salt and a splash of Grand Marnier.  But you don’t always have to choose a Margarita to enjoy Tequila in a cocktail.  And no, I am not talking about shooters, (I’ve done plenty of that when I was younger!) or even the old-fashioned Tequila Sunrise…oh the memories of that… But so many other fruity options are available to enjoy your Tequila!

One thing I am so excited to talk to you about…that my family is sick of hearing me talk about, is my new-found obsession lately with Podcasts!  I have a few favorites, some are Social Media related, pertaining to my new business, but the rest are all food-focused.  My favorites include America’s Test Kitchen, Spilled Milk…and recently, The Sporkful  had a Tequila podcast, and it’s a must listen.  Do you have any Podcasts you are obsessed with that you want to share with me?

Taken straight from The Sporkful blog, “Like so many people, Dan was scarred by tequila at a young age, and hasn’t been able to drink it for years. In Sporkful Episode 159, he sets out to overcome his aversion and learn to appreciate good tequila with help from Ilana Edelstein, author of The Patron Way: The Untold Inside Story of the World’s Most Successful Tequila.  Dan rates each tequila they taste by how strongly it evokes the “hot car trunk” rating in which that fateful bottle was stored so many years ago, and Ilana shares recipes for a couple of her favorite tequila cocktails.” 

It’s very informative when it comes to how Patrón is made and classified.  I am TOTALLY trying her recipe for Margaritas that includes Squirt! 🙂  You can also sign up to be a member of the Patrón Social Club with access to recipes, events etc.

So I don’t really have a “recipe” for you today, as when I drink Tequila, in the past, it’s been as a basic Margarita.  However, I did make a small batch of Rhubarb Syrup the other day, you can find the recipe here, and because I used the green variety of Rhubarb, it ended up looking much like a normal Margarita!  So here’s the basic recipe for that drink…you can play with the amounts…

Tequila, choose a good one, like Patrón (2oz. +/- per drink)

Grand Marnier (orange & cognac, 1/2oz. +/- per drink)

Lime juice, fresh limes…or if you have to, the best mix you can find/buy

Rhubarb Syrup (see link above for recipe, 2oz. +/- per drink)

a splash of something bubbly…I used Seagrams Orange Citrus sparkling seltzer water


Rhubarb Margarita

If you are paying attention, you’ll notice the drink above is slightly pink….I may have added a bit of Pomegranate juice to it….so it looked more “rhubarb-like”…don’t hate me 🙂

Anyway, here are some great ideas of ways to enjoy Tequila beyond the typical Margarita!

Tequila Cherry Mostarda from Mama Knows (Best) Her Cocktails

Another great cocktail I found on Mama Knows (Best) Her Cocktails is for a Tequila Tonic.  It include Coconut Water and a Ginger Simple Syrup…um YUM!

These Fresh Pineapple Margarita’s from Gimme Some Oven look insane!  So fresh & sweet!

I pinned this recipe for Lime Sorbet Margarita’s from Real Simple Magazine a long time ago and know they would make a great refreshing drink this summer!

So many cocktails are emerging lately with Watermelon as a main ingredient!  What says summer more, right?!  The Watermelon Tequila Cocktail from Bobby Flay via Food & Wine is just the ticket!

How about a Cucumber Margarita?  Or a Celery Margarita?  Or even a Red-Chile Guava Margarita?  They are all here in this list of Margarita Recipes from

Hope you’ll take a break from this awesomely hot summer we are off to, and enjoy one of these great Tequila cocktails!  Please share with me any great recipes you have for Tequila as well!

Until next time, cheers! ~Shawn

Summer of Salads, Pork…

TarragonI know you’ve heard me talk about Tarragon before in this amazing potato salad, but we fell in love with Tarragon using it on the Pork Chops I am sharing here today.  This post is about Pork, and how to enjoy it on a salad.  I realize that Bacon falls into the Pork category, but I am saving Bacon for it’s very own post…I love it just that much! 🙂

So for those of you who have never used Tarragon before, this might freak you out and make you not want to try it, but it has a licorice-like taste & smell to it.  I know, licorice is one of those love-it or hate-it things…but please don’t let you dislike for licorice deter you from trying Tarragon!  And when you use it with mustard, it’s a-mazing!  So here’s what you’ll need…

The basics...

Tarragon Pork Salad:

Pork Chops or Loin or Tenderloin

Fresh Tarragon

Garlic, chopped

Dijon Mustard

Whole Grain Mustard

Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper

Lettuce & potato pic

For the salad base:

Greens of your choice

Grape Tomatoes, sliced

Colored Peppers, sliced

Yukon Gold or Red Skinned Potatoes, cubed

Fresh Chives, sliced thin

Crumbled Blue Cheese

Olive Oil, Vinegar of your choice, Salt, Pepper etc.

Start by seasoning your Pork with the Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper.  Mix together your cut Tarragon, chopped Garlic, Dijon & Whole Grain Mustards.  Spread onto Pork, coating both sides.  Place back into fridge until time to grill.

Then move on to cleaning your potatoes.  Cut into cubes and toss with Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper & fresh Chives.  Place into two sheets of aluminum foil, wrapping the middle section together first and then tucking in both ends.  Place onto a grill at about 375-400 degrees.  Move around every so often so the bottom layer doesn’t burn.  These will take a good 45 minutes or so.  Once they are done cooking, remove from aluminum foil and place on to a plate and put in the fridge to cool.

Place Pork on the grill, making sure it’s really good and hot to begin with so you get that great grill mark action and your seasonings don’t just stick to the grill.  Once you see the sides of your meat starting to cook up, it’s time to flip them.  Cook your Pork to at least 145 degrees.  Honestly, you can make this anytime of year, just bake or sauté the Pork!

Let the Pork rest a bit before cutting into cubes and assembling your salad!  Arrange/build your salad however you like!  Add or take away any items you feel you’d like as well!

Tarragon Pork Salad

While cruising the internet, looking for other delicious Pork salads, I found these to share with you!

Here’s an interesting Spicy Pork Salad from Bon Appetit.

This Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Salad looks SO good and reminds me of the bowls you can get at Chipotle.  It’s from Your Home Based Business Mom dot com.

So, I love Pulled Pork, and recently made it a highlight of one of our entree salads.  This recipe from Lumo Lifestyle blog for Cider Braised Pulled Rhubarb Pork with wild Summer salad looks ridiculous!!  I NEED! 🙂

You’ll need this Asian Pork and Cabbage Salad from Pass the Sushi dot com.

Do you have a favorite Pork salad you want to share with me?  Please do!

Thanks for following along on my #summerofsalads!

Until next time, cheers!


Summer Sippers, Wine…


I love Pinterest.  Can I just say that?  Seriously, I swear, it has become a search engine for me and all things food & beverage!  I “googled” the search term “cocktails made with wine” while researching for this blog post and the second listing in Google was a link to a board on Pinterest titled Cocktails Made with Wine.  Click on the link to see this board; it’s pretty incredible how creative people are with wine!  Gone are the days, where the only way you found wine, other than by itself in a glass, was as a spritzer!


In putting together this post, I decided my focus was to be Sangria.  I had many friends share their Sangria recipes with me.  One of those, listed below, was given to me by husband & wife foodie duo, Lynne & Keith Morioka.  It’s what I will be making next!  I was also surprised to see what a popular drink it has become, with so many delicious variations on the traditional white or red Sangria.  We are gearing up for a birthday-Father’s day camping weekend and so I thought it would be fun to make a batch to bring with us.  I decided to try the Grilled Citrus and Grape Sangria.  In the future, I am going to try to gently smoke some fruit for a Sangria too!


St. Germain Sangria-  “we hosted a party last summer, and I made this up to be our signature cocktail for the party, and everyone loved it. Even the people who normally are just beer drinkers were loving it…”  Sounds like a winner! 🙂

Here’s what you’ll need to make it:

1 bottle of Sauvignon Blanc
3/4 cup St. Germain
1/2 cup Simple Syrup (you could probably substitute fine sugar if you want, but reduce the amount if you do)
3/4 cup San Pellegrino Limonata
1/4 cup White Grape Juice
1 Green Apple (Diced)
1 Pear (Diced)
Some White Grapes (cut in half)
Club Soda

Combine everything but the club soda together in a pitcher, and chill for several hours. When ready to serve, pour some club soda in the glass, pour Sangria in to top it off. I prefer not to have any ice in the glass, as I don’t like to water my Sangria’s down as the ice melts. With the fruit, I think that I actually used less than a whole apple and less than a whole Pear. The fruit will soak up the booze, so make sure that you eat that too!

And another recipe, from the wonderful John Michael Lerma was for his famous Hollywood Sangria.  Sounds like another winner to me!

4 bottles Cabernet Sauvignon, warm
1 bottle White Zinfandel, warm
4 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
1 ½ cups pineapple juice
1 can lemon-lime soda
¼ cup Grand Marnier
3 oranges, cut into slices or stars
3 limes, cut into slices or stars
6 strawberries, sliced
Additional fruit for garnish
1. Place all ingredients into a large glass or ceramic container. Cover and let flavors blend while warm for 2 hours, then refrigerator overnight. Serve in decorative glasses filled with ice and fresh fruit. Serves 24 or more.

Pineapple Sangria

Another gorgeous Sangria recipe I found on Pinterest was that of this Pineapple Sangria, Erin’s Food Files.  She graciously allowed me to use her picture, which makes my mouth water!  I love how she uses Pineapple soda as well!

Yet another food blogger friend’s recipe for Diane’s Sangria

Cooking Channel’s Tropical Sangria

Food and Wine’s Watermelon Sangria

Bon Appetit’s Stone-Fruit Sangria

How Sweet It Is, food blog’s Blood Orange Sangria

Girl versus Dough shares her Sangria Slushies, totally a grown-up snow-cone in my book!  In this same post, she shares a recipe for White Wine & Elderflower Sangria, so be sure to check that out too!

Here’s hoping for a long, hot summer, where we can sit back and enjoy these perfect Sangria recipes!

Until next time, cheers!


Summer of Salads, crunchy bits…

Bacon Fat Croutons!

In today’s #summerofsalads post, number three (in case you are counting along!), we tackle “crunchy bits”!  I love adding something crunchy to my salads, and it doesn’t always have to be a traditional bread crouton!  My body doesn’t appreciate many forms of gluten, so I do try to stay away from bread & other delicious gluten-filled foods, but a few croutons here or there can sometimes be okay!  If you’ve been looking to jazz up your salads with something other than the traditional bread crouton, you will LOVE this post!  Polenta Croutons, Waffle Croutons, Cake Croutons, Hash Brown Croutons and MORE!

Oh & if you do love this post, will you share it with your friends?  Please?!  Thank you 🙂


So, first let’s tackle the recipe I made for this post- Bacon Fat Croutons.  Yes to bacon fat!  You won’t be surprised to hear that we eat alot of Bacon in our house…but you might be surprised to hear I actually keep the bacon fat in the fridge for later use.  Yep, kinda gross, but mostly amazing!  In fact, I saw this recipe for Bacon Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies the other and it’s sitting on my counter, waiting to be made!  YES to bacon fat!  This is what you’ll need:

Bacon Fat Croutons:

Loaf of bread of your choice (I used a loaf of Rustic Italian bread), cut into cubes

1/4 cup of bacon fat (or if this is totally freaking you out, use whatever oil you like!)

1/4 cup of Romano cheese, grated

herbs, salt, pepper, garlic to taste (start small, work your way up)


Melt the bacon fat until it’s liquid again.

Toss the bread cubes in a large bowl with the bacon fat, herbs, salt, pepper & garlic.


Then toss the cheese in with the bread and lay out on a baking sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees, checking & tossing every ten minutes or so.  Remove from oven when they are lightly golden brown.

Bacon Croutons

Enjoy these croutons right away, store in an air-tight container, but based on my experience, they won’t stay crunchy long, so eat em’ up!

Wilted Chard Salad with Polenta Croutons and a Warm Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette from Cafe Johnsonia

This gorgeous Wilted Chard Salad with Polenta Croutons and Warm Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette is from the blog Cafe Johnsonia.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of it when I found it on Pinterest!  I haven’t made it yet, but totally plan to….hooray for Polenta Croutons!  Oh & it’s got Pine Nuts too…have I told you I am obsessed with Pine Nuts?  -Photo credit Lindsey Johnson of Cafe Johnsonia.

Pistachio Nuts copy

One of my most favorite other “crunchy bits” to put in a salad is Pistachios.  Sadly, we don’t get to enjoy them often, because they are expensive!  But they are great in any salad, especially one that you add dried fruits, like cherries & golden raisins.

Below you will find some great links to delicious Crouton recipes!

Garden Salad & Waffle Croutons from the Mostly Homemade Mom-have you ever thought of using waffles for croutons?!

We added toasted Chickpeas to salads often and this Caesar Salad with Chickpea Croutons from Relish.Com looks like a great idea!

This recipe for Gingerbread Croutons from the Cafe Terra Blog puts them in a Spinach Salad with goat cheese, Craisins, pecans and a dressing made from Chobani Greek yogurt!

Homemade Cake Croutons from Munchkin Munchies-YES to cake croutons!

Yet another fabulous way to use brown butter…Brown Butter Croutons via The Taste Tester.

I NEED this Breakfast Salad with Cinnamon Toast Croutons via The Three Little Piglets.

Roasted Winter Squash with Arugula and toasted Curry Croutons looks perfect for a chilly fall dinner! Via Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes.

And wait, a Caesar Salad with Hash Brown Croutons? Um, yes please!  Via Foodie Crush.

Brussels Sprout Salad with Cornbread Croutons via The Chubby Vegetarian.

Let me know if you try any of the above deliciousness and thanks for following along on my #summerofsalads series!

Until next time, cheers!


Shawn b & w

Summer Sippers, fruit/herbs, mixers & cubes…

Bar recipe books...

Greetings cocktail lovers!  First, I am sorry for not posting when I said I would…life took over this past week and so here I sit, 9:19pm on a Saturday night, trying to get this ready for your viewing pleasure as soon as possible!  One thing I failed to mention in my last post, that when you are setting up a bar, it’s helpful to have some sort of bar recipe guide.  I have a couple physical recipe books and probably my favorite one I have for my iPhone, it’s from Food and Wine, it’s free and you can get it here!

This week we talk mixers, cubes, fruit and more!  Of coarse you’ll want the basics for your bar, when it comes to mixers.  Sweet & sour, margarita mix, club soda, tonic water, and various other bubbly sodas etc.  You’ll also want bottles of grenadine, tabasco, bloody mary mix if you are planning on making those.  The recent explosion of “craft cocktails” has found the resurgance of “shrubs” and other delicious “craft” fruit & herb cocktail syrups.  No, I am not talking about the shrub out in the front yard, but about the kind you can mix in a cocktail, taking it to yet another level.  To learn more about what a shrub is, and how to make your own, visit the Serious Eats-drinks section and the “Cocktail 101: How to Make Shrub Syrups”.


One local favorite making all things fruity goodness, is those you’ll find at HeathGlen Farms.  They offer several different varieties of both shrubs & fruit/herbs syrups, all which you can find listed on their website here.  I’m thinking I need to pick up some of the Ginger Lime Syrup and the Blueberry Tarragon Shrub Syrup!

Screen Shot 2013-05-29 at 9.19.23 PM

Probably one of the biggest movements within the craft cocktail phenomenon is that of the small but mighty Bitters.  And locally, two gifted bartenders turned craftsmen led the way.  Meet Bittercube.  Not only providing unique Bitters, free from extracts & oils, using only “raw” ingredients, this creative duo provides consultation for food & dining establishments and “designs unique craft cocktail menus for bars, restaurants, weddings, anniversaries, corporate events, and private parties. We also create signature cocktails with event specific ingredients and names.  Beyond cocktail menus, we offer libations expertise and execution for trade shows and other events.

      Mint Simple Syrup Cubes                    Mint simple syrup in cube trays

I am honored to belong to a community of local food bloggers called Fortify.  The other night, I stalked a conversation that was happening in our private Facebook group about someone who was trying to figure out what to make with some orange bitters he recently acquired.  The conversation eventually moved to making simple syrups, something that I had recently started experimenting with myself.  I started off simple (no pun intended) with Mint Simple Syrup and then froze them (as much as they would) in ice cube trays for later use.

Lemon Thyme Simple Syrup

Then, feeling a little braver, I tried my hand at Lemon Thyme Simple Syrup.  It was really good, and has left me inspired to try many of the other herbs I have bursting in my garden already.  I envision an Oregano Simple Syrup you could add to sweeten a Bloody Mary or as basic as a Basil Simple Syrup that could be added to the kids Lemonade on a hot summer day!

Lemon Thyme Simple Syrup2

Interested in making your own Simple Syrup?  It’s easy!  Take a cup of water and a cup of sugar, place in a small pot on the stove.  Stirring constantly, once the mixture has boiled & the sugar has melted, remove from the heat.  Take your cleaned & dried herbs and place into the pot, cover with a lid and steep for at least ten minutes or until your syrup has infused to your liking.  While perusing one of my favorite cocktail blog sites, Imbibe, I found this great list of Simple Syrup ideas & recipes!  Enjoy!


I tried my Lemon Thyme Simple Syrup with both Rum & Gin tonight, using Club Soda as my mix.  I preferred the Gin, as I suspected I would.  Both were better with a healthy squeeze of lemon and in the drink made with Gin, I felt I could taste the Thyme better.

Bacon Ice Cubes

And of coarse there’s always fun ice cubes you can use to add a bit of whimsy to your cocktails.  I found these awesome bacon strip ice cubes trays at Target the other day!  If you are on Pinterest, you can follow my Beverages & Cocktails board where I’ve pinned some really fun flavored ice cube ideas!

I hope you’ll expand your cocktail menu and try some of the great things I’ve listed here!  When you do, be sure to share it with me either here in the comments, or by posting a comment on my Facebook Page!

As always, thanks for following along in this #summersippers cocktail series and until next time, cheers!