Yesterday, Dave and I celebrated our 4 month anniversary 🙂
Those of you out there who are married know how fast the big day goes by – you plan for weeks, months, years even, making sure every last detail is perfect. You lay awake at night (as your “not-stressed-about-the-details” fiance snores away next to you) wondering if it’s all going to go according to plan, playing it all out in your head over and over and over. Then the day finally comes and it’s a blur of aisle walking downage, photo taking, bite of cake eating, 2 bites of dinner eating, “thank-you for coming” repeating, dancing (if you’re lucky) and BOOM it’s over – like THAT!
For us, selecting the perfect signature drink for the night was a big deal. We did lots of brainstorming, and once we figured out what the perfect drink was, we did lots of research and experimentation – and the perfect drink was a Kiwi Mojito, a tribute to our honeymoon trip to New Zealand, a.k.a “kiwi land”. I remember at the wedding, seeing our perfectly planned out Kiwi Mojito in the hands of many guests, thinking “augh, man I gotta get my hands on one of those!” and then next day, as we reminisced over our wedding day, that we couldn’t believe had just come and gone, we both realized that we never got to try one of those damn mojitos! DOH!
So hey, better 4 months late than never, eh?
*yields 2 drinks – it is only Monday afterall!
2 kiwis, quartered
6 tbsp. kiwi/mint infused simple syrup
2 shots of light rum
juice of 2 limes
10 mint leaves, chopped
(I used lime flavored)
FOR SIMPLE SYRUP
2 kiwis, quartered
6 splenda packets
1/2 cup water
10 mint leaves
1) To make the simple syrup: break up the 2 sliced kiwis with the bottom of a wooden spoon to release the juices, then add the 10 mint leaves, 1/2 cup water and splenda and boil over low heat until all the splenda dissolves. Drain the syrup through a mesh strainer and let cool.
2) Take the rest of the kiwi slices and blend in a food processor or blender.
3) In a cocktail shaker, combine the blended kiwi, 6 tbsp. of simple syrup, 2 shots of rum, juice of 2 limes and chopped mint leaves. Muddle with the end of a wooden spoon or muddler and then shake until fully combined.
4) Fill a tall glass with ice and fill half with the kiwi/rum mixture and top the remainder off w/ seltzer water.
Boy were these worth the 4 month wait! They tasted fresh and light, a great summer time drink that all in all, isn’t too bad for you either! Using the splenda in the simple syrup can really save some calories, but of course you can use sugar. It should also be noted that by mistake, I bought Gold Kiwis – which I didn’t even know existed! However, they tasted pretty much the same and made the drinks really pretty!
So Happy Monday, and cheers to 4 months!
As a kid I was never a seafood person. My family used to vacation on Cape Cod, and I remember there was always one night dedicated to eating as much seafood as humanly possible. This was the night that I usually stomped my feet on the ground, cried and asked if we could go to McDonalds instead. For Dave on the other hand, seafood was one of the 5 food groups. His mom grew up in Rhode Island, with the ocean literally in her back yard, and I knew that if I was going to have any hopes of lasting in his family, I was going to have to suck it up and start expanding my seafood horizons.
My first experience with steamers at Dave’s Nana’s 80th birthday party was like a scene out of National Geographic – I was a tourist in a foreign country where everyone was practicing this ritual of taking a ball of slime out of a shell, pulling the icky outer skin off it, dipping it in water to get the dirt off of it, and then slathering melted butter all over it. There were pails apon pails of them on every table, with accompanying bowls of ‘bath’ water and melted butter, and the shells may as well have been flying over people’s heads they were eating them so fast and enthusiastically. It was at this moment that I realized that stomping my feet on the ground and asking for Chicken McNuggets was not age appropriate – so I did it – I ate a steamer. And another. And another. And ya know, it wasn’t all bad!
There’s this restaurant that we love called The Local. It’s nothing fancy – no frills – a simple menu, with a really great beer selection. All glasses of wine are $7 and the size of them would make your eyes bug out of your head. Watching the bartender as he pours, you keep thinking (glug – glug) – wait, he’s STILL pouring? (glug -glug) as it gets closer and closer to the top of the glass. Love that noise. One of our favorite ‘small plates’ of theirs is their Mussels – you can get them in either an Ale/Mustard/Cream broth (delish) or a Pinot Grigio and Garlic Butter broth (MORE delish). Last time we got them there, after I was done eating the mussels and soaking up as much of the left over broth as possible, we sat and tried to analyze how they were made, promising that one night we’d try to recreate them ourselves. And when we saw Mussels at Market Basket for $3.99, voila!
Mussels in White Wine and Garlic Butter
*Adapted from Cooking Melangery
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp butter
2 1/2 lb. mussels, well scrubbed and debearded
1/2 cup dry white wine
3-5 small tomatoes, chopped
1/2 bay leaf
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1) Cleaning the mussels: To clean mussels, scrub the shells well under running water. The beard, a fibrous tuft near the hinge, should not be removed until just before cooking. Grasp it close to the shell and pull on it with a firm tug. Today, with so many farm-raised mussels in the market, beards are less fully formed and are easier to remove. Once the mussels have been thoroughly cleaned, remove and discard any shells that are open or broken and that do not close when tapped – this is the most time consuming part. The rest is fast and easy, so be patient!
2) Cook the onion, garlic and the butter on medium flame until the onions are soft.
3) Turn up the flame to high and add the mussels.
4) Pour in the white wine, bay leaf, parsley, ground pepper and salt and stir for about 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes, cover and cook for 5 minutes until all the mussels have opened. Discard any mussels that did not open.
5) Serve the mussels in large bowl with the broth and baguette slices for dipping.
And, whatever wine is left over (glug, glug) pour yourself a tall glass 🙂 That’s an order!
It should be said that I ONLY share recycled recipes that have been made 239859849584 times by me if they’re REALLY good. And you’re in for a doozie.
Several years ago, when I started working at my current job, I met Bruce – he was the Vice President of the publishing department at the time, and he was a mean publisher of stuff regarding the A/E/C industry (insider lingo). But little did I know, he was also a mean COOKER of stuff. He’d come in on a Monday, and rattle off this list of food he had prepared over the weekend for one of his impromptu pool parties, or tailgates at a Pats game, and I’d sit there listening to him, drooling all over my keyboard, amazed by the culinary skills of this publisher by day, culinary expert by night. And then there was the fateful day when Bruce walked through the door with a crockpot. He plugged it in, and the smell wafted through the office, and everyone stuck their arms out and did the zombie strut into the kitchen following this smell of heaven. And the smell of heaven was coming from one of the most delicious concoctions of pulled meat I’ve ever tasted – Pulled Chicken. After he sent out the email with the recipe, I looked once, twice, three times and thought, “OMG – even I could make this!” and make I did – over and over and OVER again. It has been a go-to recipe of mine for years. Thanks Bruce!
The reason for the pulled chicken this time around, was a bittersweet one. One of my college gal pals is moving to Dallas in a few weeks with her husband Rudy and their two pooches, Sadie and Lucy. And while Dallas is a smidgen further away than Boston, I’m excited for all the adventures they have coming their way! (but sad that they just missed Khloe and Lamar – I envisioned them becoming BFF’s). So for Liz’s Wine Club send off, southern themed appetizers were an obvious choice. The PERFECT excuse to make Bruce’s Pulled Chicken Sliders!
Bruce’s Pulled Chicken Sliders
8 (or so) boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tbsp seasoned salt
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp chili powder
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup of your favorite bottled BBQ sauce
2 tbsp vegetable oil (or olive)
1) Heat the oil in a dutch oven or skillet.
2) In a large bowl, mix all of the spices together and then coat the chicken thighs in the spice mixture.
3) When the oil is hot, brown the seasoned chicken on both sides on medium-high heat.
4) When the chicken is browned on both sides, transfer thighs to the crock pot.
5) Deglaze the hot dutch oven with the vinegar and scrape up all the browned bits and pour with the vinegar into crock pot.
6) Pour the BBQ sauce onto the browned chicken in the crock pot. Cover and cook on low 4-6 hours.
7) When done, take two forks and shred the chicken in the crock pot and let sit for a few minutes. Serve on slider rolls, or all by itself!
It’s that easy friends – and so delicous. Perfect for an appetizer at a party, or for dinner served with mac and cheese and cornbread. It’ll bring out the southerner in you – promise.
So thank-you Bruce for this classic crowd pleaser that I’ve made so many times now, I don’t even need to look at the recipe anymore (good thing, because the printed version I have has globs of BBQ sauce all over it). And to Liz, Rudy, Sadie and Lucy, happy trails to you! Dallas doesn’t know how lucky they are to have you guys – can’t wait to visit! Maybe I’ll bring my crock pot and show the southerners how the yankees make pulled chicken 🙂
Families can be divided for a lot of reasons – money; family secrets; sibling rivalries. Or, in my family’s case, food network star Ina Garten, aka The Barefoot Contessa.
For years, my mom, aunts and grandmother have been Ina’s number one fans: they’ve bought every new Barefoot Contessa cookbook, my mom DVR’s almost every episode, and even keeps her flour and sugar in the same glass jars and salt and pepper in the same white ramekins that Ina Does. At every family holiday, you can pretty much bank on the fact that when you bite into one of the twenty five desserts on the table, when you ask for the recipe, you’ll hear “They’re Ina’s”, as if she’s a second cousin whose sitting in the next room or something.
And then, there’s my cousin Erin: she loathes Ina. The sheer thought of her standing in her beautiful hampton’s kitchen, with a denim or black blouse on, collar popped, cooking up something for Jeffrey before he gets home from work releases the steam from Erin’s ears. Perhaps it’s because she herself has a small bakery operation of her own in L.A., and Ina’s seemingly perfect desserts don’t live up to a Bella Boo Brownie or Max’s Monster Oatmeal Cookies. Or maybe it’s Ina’s exessive use of the word ‘Fabulous’ or the term ‘How easy is that?’
And then there’s those of us that are torn, like myself and some of my cousins. Because yes, Ina, like all Food Network stars, can make you crazy. We’re jealous of her kitchen, and her hampton’s house, and the fact that she gets to sit home and cook delicous food all day and get paid for it! WTF! But, I do think her recipes are delcious – they’re basic enough that 9 times out of 10 you’ll have most of the ingredients on hand, and can manage to put them together without burning the house down – and the woman loves her cocktails. I’ll drink to that!
One of Ina’s recipes that has become a Murphy Family Favorite is her Pecan Squares. There are 9 sticks of butter. NINE. N-I-N-E. Oh and, as if the squares themselves aren’t enough, she takes it up a notch and dips half of them in chocolate (see I knew there was a reason I liked this woman). This recipe goes on forever – you’ll have pecan squares for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a year, because one square inch of them is probably equal to your daily caloric intake. They are just sinful. But, the recipe is pretty involved – it feels like it takes forever to make them (I mean do you know how long it takes to unwrap nine sticks of butter? I’m sweating just thinking of it!)
So I was browsing online and found this delicous looking alternative for Ina’s 9-sticks-of-butter-bars (that’s what I’m renaming them) from Just a Taste, and it looked easy and equally as delicious!
Easier-than-Ina’s Pecan Bars
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 cups chopped pecans
1) Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line a 9×13-inch pan with foil, leaving enough for a 2-inch overhang on all sides. (I sprayed my foil with non-stick cooking spray, just in case)
2) First make the crust by creaming together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add in the flour and salt and mix until crumbly.
3) Press the crust into the foil-lined pan and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.
4) While the crust bakes, prepare the filling by combining the butter, brown sugar, honey and heavy cream in a saucepan and stirring it over medium heat. Simmer the mixture for 1 minute, then stir in the chopped pecans.
5) Remove the crust from the oven and immediately pour the pecan filling over the hot crust spreading it to cover the entire surface.
6) Return the pan to the oven and bake an additional 20 minutes.
7) Remove the pan and allow the bars to fully cool in the pan.
8) Use the foil overhang to lift out the bars and transfer them to a cutting board. Peel off the foil, slice into bars.
9) *An optional, highly recommended last step, stolen from Ina – DIP THE ENDS IN CHOCOLATE! Milk or Dark – you won’t be sorry! I didn’t do it this time, but, it will only make them that much more amazing.
Well what’s the verdict? Could these put Ina out of business? I think so! They were absolutely delicious. Not quite as thick and hearty as hers, but that means you get to eat more of them! The same great flavor, without all the hassle, time, and BUTTER.
So Ina, how much easier was that?