Thursday, December 24, 2015

Getting In The Spirit And Crockpot Trotters!

I have some catching up to do! Well, Thanksgiving was a success despite me being under the weather. I penned down alot of my recipes ahead of time and Papa Smurf was able to help hold it down in the kitchen. The latest vlog will be from our 2nd annual visit to Symphony in Lights at Wiregrass Mall (back in November). As of 3 weeks ago our tree was up and the Christmas shopping for the kiddos was done! What!? For us it just never happens this early but we really wanted to get things out of the way and have them already set up while we had the chance. Baby Jay and I are both healthy and he growing like a champ. God is GOOD! I don't want to force him on you but he's GOOD! Because this time last year it was a totally different story.

I feel like people aren't transparent enough during this time of year and people really go through some things. This time last year, like I said, it was a totally different story for us. Papa Smurf was working at two different jobs, one was a restaurant. Though everyone had done their part on site to get things over to central payroll in time, his check as well as the rest of the staff at his level on location had their checks withheld until after the holiday. So, we had our tree but weren't able to get our kids gifts. Things were pretty tight therefore we also did not have the gas money to make the 1 hour and 15 minute trip to see my sister in law (Papa Smurf's sister) who was in Orlando with her girls during that time.

We had a 'REAL Christmas' as Papa Smurf coined it. You know the ones you see on your favorite old 90s sitcoms or other childhood movies. The ones where everything goes wrong, or doesn't go according to plan, or there are no presents/ commercial Christmas. Anyways, Christmas Eve night we went to church for the special performance and service being held. They really put on a show so that was a gift in and of itself. We left out feeling refreshed and in good spirits. Christmas Day we woke up and watched the Macy's parade and all of the Disney specials. Then we watched Hallmark and Family Channel Christmas movies all day while letting the kids pig out on cookies and popcorn. The kids were content. We didn't let on to them that anything was wrong (they were 3 & 5) or had not gone according to plan at the time. They had a good time. We went out the next day and got gifts and 'staged' commercial Christmas the following morning and they never questioned a thing. 

I have both heard and read (through blogs and forums) that the first two years of a relocation can be the hardest but to hang in there for both. It's like getting over a hump of sorts but too many tap out early only to regret it. This year has gone alot better, better jobs, better schedules, and opportunities. So, for anyone in the same boat, hang in there! And to any parents going through a Christmas not going according to plan, you are not alone! It happens to all of us. Just remember what Christmas is really all about ;-)

I leave you all with a recipe for a delicacy rooted in soul food tradition that my family and I only prepare for New Year's Eve or Thanksgiving. It's very hard to find recipes for these/ this online and I have only found like maybe a good 2-3 online. This time I prepared them in the crockpot. So I present to you....

Crockpot Trotters

6-8 split pigs' feet (I like to use split but you can use whole)
4 stalks of celery (trimmed and cut down like appetizer sticks)
1 large yellow onion halved
1-2 tspns of crushed red pepper
1-2 tblspns of Kosher salt

Fill one large crockpot with all of the ingredients. Fill with enough water to cover the pigs feet. Set your crockpot to high and cook for at least 4 hours. You will know that the pigs' feet are done as they become very tender and fall off the bones. If your pigs feet are tough and allow them additional time to cook.

Serve hot with your favorite sides (like potato salad and collard greens) and your favorite hot sauce.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Stonewood Tavern and Grill

The morning sickness has subsided and I am well into the second trimester. I am feeling back to normal somewhat minus this extreme fatigue I have been feeling.

Julie and Jerry surprised me! They know how to work my Nikon all footage from about 2 vlogs I wanted to post are gone including my in-laws visit. Sorry guys. There was also footage from when we made Coca Cola ribs and a Shannon's Haul. It was also replaced with a 22 minute long video of them playing and making a vlog of their own. The Nikon is hidden and high up now.

I realized that I owe you all a review on Stonewood Tavern. It's good I waited. I went a second time, which is good to see if there is consistency in service and food. The second time was also with a group which lets you know how well or not so well a restaurant handles groups and accommodates.

Spontaneous Date Night. The ambiance here is everything. There is dim lighting and its not crowded. There was no wait. It has a neighborhood restaurant feel, a little bit of a lodge feel to it too. This is definitely a place where you can get cozy with that special someone. Take your time with apps and dinner; have drinks, snuggle up and talk for hours.
For starters I stuck to the pretzel bread sticks. They tasted like a homemade soft pretzels, not too much salt and as though they had been brushed down with pure butter. Light crunch on the outside but pillowy soft goodness on the inside.

I ordered a salad and prime rib with a loaded baked potato. The prime rib was PERFECT! The medium rare steak was perfectly seared, tender, beautiful color on the inside. The seasonings were simple but flavorful. The grill marks are there but you won't bite into any charred bits. Instead your palette is greeted by a rich smokey flavor that has reached the steak through and through. 

Girls Night Out. The second time around our group of 9 was accommodated and well cared for. Though we never made it to that party room. We were there for quite a few hours but not once did I feel rushed. I opted for an appetizer that night. I had the fried calamari. I remember telling the girls I just hope it doesn't look like frozen (onion) rings. They were great and also had jalapeƱo chips as an accompaniment. The calamari was lightly dusted and flash fried. Perfectly seasoned with salt and perhaps a peppercorn meddly; its served with a marinara and the calamari presented in the traditional way of rings and little squids with tentacles. It's one of my favorite apps and I was quite pleased. I also indulged in the pretzel bread again which hadn't changed a bit.

On our way out we were greeted by the General Manager and told that our group was welcome to return any time and anything we needed esp a reservation to let him know. I can't wait to go back for more pretzel bread and to try the buffalo shrimp!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

What's The Worst Thing That Can Happen To A Food Blogger?

Wow! First of all I can't believe that it's been like two months since my last blog post. So what's the worst thing that can happen to a food blogger? You may ask after seeing that title. Morning sickness! 

And just as the meme says I had it ALL DAY! From August up until a week ago. By now, a good amount of you (those that follow our personal pages on Facebook) know that we are expecting Surprise Baby #3. Yes! Surprise! Because we didn't plan it and the shock still has not wore off, I don't think it will until I am actually holding the baby or these subtle bubbles and flutters I feel turn into kicks. For that three month long stretch I have suffered and fought a losing battle to Morning BKA All Day Sickness and fatigue. It had been downright debilitating and mood altering (in a downward spiral kind of way). The nausea and the dizziness started as early as waking up by 8am or as late as the wee hours of 3am! Notice I say start time! Then it would last intermittently throughout the day; coming in waves (crashing) and spells. The couch became my oyster and only place of comfort. Things went down but didn't stay down. And we won't even visit the smell aversions (like Papa Smurf's deodorant). Your favorite foods turn on you, they smell awful, or their texture is off, or you just hate the smell of them and it all seems like some cruel joke.

I have felt really bad neglecting my blog and vlog but between the sickness and the smell aversions it really made cooking impossible, especially trying new recipes, even dining out, and it lowered my motivation. There has only been enough of me left to do hubby, kids, and home barely; oh and a Design Group for women that I joined to meet every week at church. But honestly the last thing was to try to give myself some life and work on me. And there is alot of truth to that BARELY! My poor husband was often left looking (on) just like this...
"Or if your parents to come and visit, from the night of my birthday or throughout the remainder of the week!" Not when I feel like I've been on one of those sick looking carnival rides named the Zipper or Apple Turnover and my head feels like there is a little man with a jackhammer in it giving me a migraine...#AllDay. And my house looks like Hurricane Katrina sans flooding!

Anyways, now that the comical rant is over let me make this productive. I am now in week 15 and have entered the second trimester (*cheers!). Here is how I survived:

1. Smoothies
Early on I was determined! Like "I'm gonna beat this thing! It's not gonna beat me!" I pulsed frozen fruit, yogurt, ice, and spring mix greens every morning before heading out to the bus stop by 8:45 am with Julie and Jerry in tow for the 15 minute power walk it takes. I felt fabulous (though it was short lived). My favorite combo was strawberry, pineapple, and banana with strawberry yogurt. I also learned that once the little peanut started causing me to have the "insatiable hunger" that trips to Smoothie King on the run and asking for a scoop of protein worked wonders to fill me up and give a boost. And its safe.

2.  Eat Bland and Dry
I would eat dry granola, Homestyle popcorn, Cheerios, toast, saltines, or a baked potato with only salt and butter. If you want to get full, go for that baked potato with the salt and butter!

3. Protein, Protein, Protein! 
String cheese sticks (mozzarella based), cheese and crackers became my best friend and go to early on. Steaks (simply seasoned) and burgers also worked to curb the emergent insatiable hunger that came in between bouts with "All Day".

4. Soup and Tea
There is nothing more comforting than a hot cup of tea or a warm bowl of soup when you feel alot less than your best. I made a homemade mint tea with fresh mint leaves and it gave me life! I brewed the leaves (about a handful) in hot water, steeped them for 3 minutes with a little sugar. It tasted so good and really soothed my tummy. Hot chunky chicken noodle soup, with just white breast chicken chunks, celery, carrot, in their own little broth (ok, ok, I had Campbell's lol). But it worked! Especially on those tough evenings where I was sick but needed something hearty.

5. REST! 
If you are going through this right now please realize that you are NOT superwoman. If you can't beat it, sleep through it. And that's what I did most days, as my ability to tolerate my breakfast favorites like bacon, eggs, and smoked ham waned. The nausea and dizziness kicked in and nothing stayed down, I just gave up and slept through. It worked and though I woke a little groggy the nausea and dizziness had diminished greatly. I had a little more energy and was able to reward myself with nice lunches. I learned to delegate things to Papa Smurf, more than I wanted to but I realized I needed his help. Enlist your DH (Darlin' Hubby) or partner to help with meals, meal planning, and cleaning. Exercise the little "no's" here and there to preserve yourself so that you can take care of yourself, your growing baby, and still have something to spread to your husband and other children if you have them; focus on what's really important.

As I enter week 15, I can see the rainbow and the pot of gold up ahead. The sun is breaking through the clouds. What are some of your "Go To's", tips, and tricks for surviving the morning sickness stage of pregnancy?

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Fresh Market...Salmon 2 Ways...And Your Pro Kitchen...

Finally taking some much needed time out to post. When I last left off we vlogged while at The Fresh Market and later on the grill at poolside as we prepared "Salmon Two Ways".  

I prepared a Tzatziki marinated salmon, and I made a spice rub for the other salmon steak that mirrored my chili lime rub. Both the marinade and the rub are very versatile, I highly recommend both on either fish or chicken. 

As for The Fresh Market, it never gets old, at least not yet. I saw a few new vendors in rotation. On the other hand, I think that they should get rid of the inflatable play at the end of the "Fresh Market Row"/ Boulevard; banish them back into the open grassy area on the outskirts of the parking lot where they usually are. It's not safe on the street pavement #1, and #2 it's just awkward placement especially since they are charging money $. 

After that day that we vlogged, the weather was a total wash out for the next 2 weeks! It rained non stop! We were on the luckier side of the county, the west side did not fare well at all. Their was high standing water, mandatory evacuations, a river swelled, the city also suffered high standing water. They are still dealing with the damage now. We didn't vlog or go out much during that time between soggy days and no batteries for the camera. I really wish I vlogged our visit to Your pro Kitchen, we got caught in a downpour on that day too. Anyways, Your pro Kitchen is a commercial kitchen space that was recommended to us by Foodie Finances. The owners Jan and Jack were very nice. They gave us a wealth of information, a long list with an information packet that comes standard with the lease information and policy.
  1. How to DBA with Sunbiz
  2. Where to get an IRS EIN
  3. Where to get business cards
  4. Insurance (a Local firm providing insurance to food service based businesses
  5. Local CPA, Bookkeeper, and Lawyer
  6. Where to get printed labels for products locally
  7. SIgns, banners, decals, wraps for autos, hats, shirts, etc
  8. Where to obtain a food safety certification
  9. Where to get bottling and containers for your products
  10. Where and what to get for proper food permits
  11. Where to find local farmer's markets
  12. Which authority to ask about collection of sales tax
Jan and Jack were happy to answer all of our questions and were open to have conversation with us to build rapport. They both showed a genuine interest in our business and how we intended to use their space. They wanted to get a good feel for who we are and where we were going with this. They seemed really impressed with the fact that we cook from scratch as many do not these days. Papa Smurf has commercial kitchen experience and has spent a considerable amount of time in a commercial kitchen so I took his evaluation of the space to heart. He said that it was basic, but ample enough for what we needed. It would definitely meet our needs. 

As for the checklist and other things, we have covered alot of ground so far. I recently passed my Serv Safe Food Manager exam! And secured a "new to me" set of wheels. Alot is going on behind the scenes and there are things I can't yet reveal/ divulge to you all just yet; So stay tuned and buckle up! ;-)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Clearwater Revisited

I'm a little behind in vlogs and blogs. My family came down for a week. I wanted to make sure that I spent time with them and limited my screen time. I have another vlog coming featuring all of us together during their visit! 

The weekend before my family came down Papa Smurf and I took the kids back to Clearwater Beach. The first time we went to Clearwater it was early December (2013). It was right before the transition to Floridian winter. The first cool day out of our whole trip that week, as it neared its end. Compared to our recent peak season visit, the beach was more like a ghost town. We were told that at peak season it was a totally different scene, as we browsed around a sunglass shop and snack bar. They were right and they were right!

Taken From December '13 Visit Starkly Different Scene from Peak Season Vlog

Taken From December '13 Visit Starkly Different Scene from Peak Season Vlog

Fast forward to Saturday June 27th, 2015. Yes, it was a totally different scene! The traffic was mad...crazy. It inched from the bridge where you are greeted by the Clearwater Beach tower sign through the traffic circle/ roundabout. The reasonably priced lots within close proximity to the main beach access were all full to capacity. We almost left because of the traffic and crowds, but the drive we had made, caused us to think twice. The boulevard was also full of pedestrians braving the streets like flocks of pigeons and gulls as opposed to humans  with the ability to reason. Cars were coming at a steady pace so crosswalks are definitely the safer and better bet. 

Why else were we so cranky? Well we went through the roundabout at least 3x and down the boulevard at least 2-3x trying to find parking. Not just one, not just two, but all 4 parking lots within closer proximity to the beach were full to capacity. Then we just gave up about 4+ blocks away and paid $20. We learned the hard way, why the locals do not go during this time of year (as Papa Smurf says--in the vlog--that he is always told to steer clear of Clearwater during this time of year and spring break). 

At Clearwater Beach, there is lots to see and do. In the vlog I have a clip of a couple of street performers, The Acromaniacs, Danny and Lady Q (a husband and wife gymnastics team). I even saw a street performer juggling knives (was not able to get footage of him though, sorry). I also noticed a performer dressed as Bumblebee from Transformers. Don't get me wrong about it at all. I love Clearwater. The beach itself along with its town get an A+ from me.It is a beautiful beach with powdery sand and that's one of the reasons why the crowds flock! There is also lots to do! Although, the crowding of peak season is a major deterrent for myself and my family. Maybe we will give the place a try during a weekday lull, but I am more adamant about waiting until peak season dies down. 


  • Lots to do
  • A number of places to grab a quick bite 
  • Beautiful beach with powdery sand and lots of space to spread out on the sand
  • Trollies (to take you around the area with a number of stops in town and to points of interest)
  • The Pier 60 playground (boasting 2 play pads and lots of space to romp (featured in vlog), pavilion and fishing pier (forgot your bait and rod at home, no problem)
  • Street performers entertaining adjacent to the playground and pavilion
  • Craft vendors on the pier selling all kinds of beach themed goodies
  • Lots of places to grab a quick bite, classic pizza parlors, coffee cafe and deli, seafood restaurants, there's a Hooters (don't judge me they have good wings to carry out), snack bars at Pier 60 and one that is also further down
  • The CVS that we stopped at that doubled as a souvenir shop (we found an extra sand pail and shovel for only $1.79).
  • Loads of watersports and cruises close by! Chartered deep sea fishing trips and excursions (parasailing, lunch and dinner cruise, pirate cruise, jet ski rentals just to name a few)

  • Very congested, congested traffic pattern (though improved its still problematic and can't accommodate the volume; needs work).
  • Limited parking

I love Clearwater so we'll be back. It will just be a while...quite a while. Subscribe and Thumbs up. Leave a comment to let me know you stop by. Hope you all enjoy the vlog! 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

St. Pete Beach (Not Your Sleepy Beach Town)...

If you are looking for a sleepy, quiet, or lazy beach town then St. Pete Beach is not for you. There is a busy strip with plenty to do. There are lots of hotels and condos. The Loews Don CeSar is also featured in my vlog, it's a large beautiful salmon pink building that resembles a palace (you can't miss it). The main beach access is off from the Gulf Boulevard, which is the busy strip that I am speaking of. There are big name franchises like Chick-Fil-A, the grocery store (publix), Dollar Tree, and a Japanese Steakhouse is right across the street from main beach access too. There are also several bars and restaurants that line the Gulf Boulevard as well. This was a quick visit so we didn't explore as much. 

View from our lounge chair(s)

As soon as you step foot on the sand, you are greeted by people offering to sell you beach furniture rentals ($25 and under), cabanas and lounge chairs with umbrellas. Between the crazy aggressive and gangster seagulls, if you forgot yours then you better consider renting one to at least try to thwart them off some. However, it's no guarantee, there is still a risk; if you watch our vlog closely you can see the dark shadow of the seagull on the sand as he swooped in under the umbrella and swiped my husband's chicken wing right from the plate in his hand. In the footage, I also get him flying away from close range. The seagulls here are very bold and aggressive. They have no fear and its very concerning just how aggressive they are. Something really should be done about them. Like maybe they can have some biologists come in and survey their behavior and the area. Then perhaps develop a sanctuary if they haven't already where they can be diverted elsewhere for population control. I get that they are in their natural habitat but the level of aggression is concerning and for the most part it's not like people are intentionally feeding them either. I didn't get any additional footage of others, besides ourselves, who nearly had their fingers pecked off as food was ripped from their hands but it was a regular occurrence throughout the day. Followed by swarming and loud squawking and not in the cute Finding Nemo "Mine! Mine! Mine!" scene, nope once again these guys are like a John Singleton flick. Bring food at your own risk! You have been warned!

The sand is soft and powdery in most areas though, there are spots that are covered with sharp, jagged shells. One pierced through the heel of my foot. Ouch! Keep on the flip flops and aqua socks and no one gets hurt! The water is a gorgeous, pristine, emerald green and turquoise blue. It's quite warm, the waves come in and out; they are quite thrilling and just the right speed for kids and adult kids. The TradeWinds Resort is the home of the giant water slide that I also shared in the vlog. The slide provided hours of fun for the resort patrons. There are some watersports close by including parasailing, water tricycles, and jet skis. 

The only downside to this venue was having to pay for parking. Feed the meter because there are patrol cars making their rounds regularly, and they are ready to ticket and tow! We will definitely be back to St. Pete Beach. It's a great beach spot for families. We saw lots of families and 20 somethings while we were there. It's a picturesque beach, great for sun bathing, chilling, playing, a good time to be had by all. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Evolution of My Holiday Baked Mac 'N' Cheese

*Delayed post alert. There has been so much going on back on the homefront in the DMV/Maryland. For those that follow my personal page on Facebook, thanks for the prayers!

Baked macaroni and cheese is one of those things you just cannot mess up or use an "imposter" like "Easy Mac" or "Stouffers" for Sunday or holiday dinners in my family. We're not mean, we can I put it? It's like our pastor at the very first church my husband and I attended faithfully together and called home would say "It's so beautiful when you stay in your lane! Amen somebody! I've got the beverages!" He even yielded some folks to venture over to the neighboring Bojangles for sides when we had family game nights or Superbowl parties. He would say "Bojangles has dirty rice and biscuits...Amen...Amen...Somebody!". As you have probably already concluded, if you weren't blessed in this particular arena, experimenting on the congregation (or victimizing) was not encouraged.

As for our family and Sunday dinners, it's a "Tale of Two Mac's". Usually myself or Ericka is tapped to make the macaroni and cheese. Ericka's has sour cream and mine has a cheese sauce. My recipe is a combination of two baked macaroni and cheese recipes that I tweaked, swapped and merged. I kept what I liked from each, and whatever I did not like I dropped and subbed out. Traditionally growing up we would take the boiled noodles and add the milk, egg, salt, pepper, tablespoon of flour and stir together to coat. The tablespoon of flour was an accidental add in made by Ericka early 2000s and it turned out to be genius! It made the macaroni and cheese extra fluffy. Anyways, after all of the ingredients were added we would top with mild cheddar cheese and bake. *DJ record scratches*

More tweaks over the years, for instance going from 1 cheese to 3 cheeses! Ericka's next tweak, using the sharp cheddar cheese, colby jack and monterrey jack cheeses. She tried cottage cheese once too but decided to stick to her sour cream. By the mid 2000 to late 2000s.

I ditched the sour cream, dared not to even try cottage. I kept the 3 cheese deal, as it took it to a whole other level of 3D cheesiness for a great taste, rich too. However, the downside was that no matter how hard I tried, I still ended up with dry noodles. Aargh! I can't stand a macaroni and cheese dish with dry noodles, it's a pet peeve of mine. But then one day I stumbled across the Neely's Baked Macaroni and Cheese 'dump' and learned a new method. Learning how to make a cheese sauce from a flour and butter roux changed my life! I used their method, and a few add ins of theirs that I liked merging it with our recipe. I ditched alot of things from theirs mainly keeping their cheese sauce method.

For holidays only, like Thanksgiving and Christmas I will top the macaroni and cheese with lightly fried bacon. I let it finish crisping in the oven to give the casserole decadent and a little bit of a smokey flavor.

I've been using this final recipe which is the result of alot of tweaks and some merges since 2010 when my husband and I were in our new home with our baby girl and decided to have our very first Thanksgiving Dinner and start our own tradition.

I knew I nailed it when my husband's best friend nearly fell over the table and fainted. He was silently nodding and smiling through chewing. He liked everything on the plate but he said "the mac n' cheese...its soo good...WOW and it's got kick too what's in it?!" He said it had kick but it was like an undertone, it didn't over power.

My Holiday Baked Macaroni and Cheese

1 1/2 to 2 cups of lightly fried bacon crumbles
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 1/2 pounds of elbow macaroni cooked al dente (if you can find them use the ones with the grooves)
1/2 quart of milk
1 1/2 - 2 lb of mild cheddar cheese (shredded or crumbles) *may or may not use all
1 1/2 -2 lb of Colby and Monterrey jack cheese (shredded or crumbles) *may or may not use all
1 stick of unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons of ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon of onion powder
2 1/3 cups of flour (All purpose will do)
2-3 dashes of your favorite hot sauce (I used Frank's)
1 teaspoon of paprika

Using a large saucepan melt your butter until it sizzles. Add in your flour and whisk until the flour turns blonde like sandy crumbles. Next, add in your milk; you want to make sure the milk covers at least 1 1/2 - 2 inches in depth of your saucepan. Next, add in all of your seasonings and hot sauce. Stir together until blended in well with the milk. Slowly add in and whisk your cheese crumbles or shreds until your have a sauce that resembles a "queso" for nachos. Do this over low heat to prevent your milk from curdling and your cheese separating and turning into a large ball of cheese gum. It's a low and slow process. The sauce should be thick and stretchy. In a large casserole dish or aluminum baking pan you should have your elbow macaroni on reserve. Slowly pour your cheese sauce over your noodles to coat them generously. Then, I usually add in any leftover cheese in cubes and/or crumbles interspersed here and there discreetly to make my macaroni and cheese extra cheesy! Usually about 1 1/2 - 2 cups of cubes or crumbles. I top it with shredded or thin rectangular slices, and finally top with the bacon crumbles. Last, I bake my macaroni and cheese uncovered for 35-45 minutes at 350 degrees. I allow it to set for at least 15 minutes before serving so that there won't be noodles and cheese sliding everywhere and to get nice neat squares. The cheese sauce should firm up to be almost custard like after you allow the casserole to set.

**Yields a large portion, can feed up to 8-12. 

Check out my video for my method.

I am slowly building up my kitchen gadgets and still replacing things. We purged so much before moving. I just improvise with what is left and building as I go. I have to admit though, after the struggle of shredding/ pulsing cheese in my blender I ended up getting The Chew's 5 in 1 Slicer. I am still getting used to it but may post a review soon. Why not just buy shredded? I save a good amount getting 2 lb blocks from Sam's. Hope you all enjoy the video and the recipe!

I am entering this recipe into the Dairy Good Cookbook Sweepstakes which I discovered via Divas Can Cook.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Chili Lime and Greek!

I had a spurt of creative energy that came through about a week ago. I was busy making a new marinade, trying out different sauce and spread. All homemade of course. The pictures made it to Instagram first. Sometimes that will happen from time to time so definitely follow me on Instagram if you have the app.

This past week was a blur! Sunday we went to her Kindergarten class’ end of the school year pool party thrown by the teachers, and then Julie had her last day of school the following Wednesday. It’s bittersweet because you are so proud, like she did it and we made it! On the other hand you realize that it’s like the ending of a chapter, she is really is growing up and not a baby anymore.

To new beginnings! *Cheers. Speaking of which, I would like to try my hand at catering and event planning. I have been doing alot of research and reading for quite some time. Back home in Maryland, we used to host events for our family and friends all the time, and everyone looked forward to Julie and Gio’s annual combined birthday barbecue. Though, it will be a gradual transition, I am slowly treading out of R&D mode. I would like for my interests and ventures to compliment each other even if it means scaling back on others. No sooner than I considered that and spoke it out into the universe, the contract with FF came to a screeching halt as of Friday. It may resume months later/down the road, it may not. Sometimes, I get the feeling that I’m being aggressively redirected in career life.

I have two new videos coming up. As for the recipes in this post, the Greek Chicken Salad is the one that I recorded, though I wished I had recorded the chili lime marinade instead. However, both recipes came out quite tasty, I have to say out of both of the recipes, the Chili Lime marinade was my favorite outcome! The marinade had an amazing aroma, very robust flavor, with just the right amount of spice. I used the chili lime marinade on a package of chicken leg quarters. We grilled brisket and corn on the cob too. I will definitely use this marinade again and again because it was that good! I think it would go great on shrimp and fish as well.


Chili Lime Marinade
2 Red Chili peppers
Juice of 2 Limes
4 Garlic Cloves
1 Tblspn of Garlic powder
1 Tspn of Coriander
1 Tblspn of Onion powder
1 1/2 Tspn of Smoked paprika
1 Tspn of Kosher Salt
Combine all ingredients and mix (liquefy) in the blender.


Tzatziki Sauce
3-4 Bunches of Fresh Dill
Juice of 1 Lemon
Approx. 16 Oz of Greek Yogurt (I used 3 5.3 oz containers of Chobani Greek Yogurt---use your favorite!)
3-4 Cloves of garlic
1 peeled, seeded, diced, and drained of water
Kosher Salt (Sprinkle the diced cucumber with kosher salt to help dry it out)
Ground Black pepper
Combine all ingredients in the blender and pulse until smooth.
Other uses for Tzatziki Sauce: You can use your Tzatziki sauce for gyros, as a dip for crackers or veggies, as salad dressing, as a dressing for chicken salad, for dipping sauce for wings, you can also use it as a marinade. Yes, a marinade. I marinated chicken breast and they came out so tender! I would definitely use it again as a marinade. (If you would like for me to share that recipe then just post below in the comments).

Olive Tapenade
1 Small can of anchovies (I only used 1 filet)
2 Tablespoons
Juice of 1 lemon
5 Garlic Cloves
1/4 Cup of Feta Cheese
1 to 1 1/2 Cups of Calamata Olives (I used chopped and already pitted variety)
1-2 Bunches of fresh Basil
1-2 Bunches of fresh Oregano
First combine your herbs, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice in the blender. Then add your olives and last the feta cheese. Store excess in a nice air tight container. It should store up to at least a week.

I used the Tzatziki sauce as a dressing for my chicken salad (Greek Chicken Salad). I topped it over a bed of fresh spinach on a croissant. On the other side I spread a good amount of the olive tapenade. I would probably spread the tapenade beneath the spinach next time and use a little less. The sandwich has a very unique flavor and is quite tasty. It is a healthy option since the dressing for the chicken salad is not mayonnaise based but Greek yogurt based.


What creative spin will you put on your food with homemade chili lime marinade, tzatziki sauce and/or a homemade olive tapenade?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Let’s Talk Over Mojo and Youtube…

I just want to speak briefly about our new Youtube channel and the intentions and thoughts we have about it. Of course, I just posted a new cooking video, in addition to two others previously posted. I am new to this Youtube thing in a sense of posting videos on a more regular basis (I tried to do hair and hair product reviews to get my feet wet years back but only 1 made it). Though I had done a little research after reading about this one blogger's rut, I lurched in forums to read about the things people want to see versus what they don't want to see, it's a mixed bag between content and culture. In so far as that, I don’t know much beyond “you better have some tough skin”, it’s fun, I like it, and it’s meant to be yet another creative outlet. It is also a good way to keep in touch /share things with family back home that miss seeing us more regularly. I have some vloggers that I enjoy watching too; even ones that we watch together.

However, after watching a popular vlogger vent about how he felt stuck in a rut with their vlogging it solidified a mutual decision that Papa Smurf and I had reached long before. And yes I did discuss developing a channel on Youtube with the husband first to further gauge his interest and comfort level since I wanted him to be a part of it. We agreed that we just want to post when we travel, go to cool places, events, something exciting or are doing some real cooking. Don’t get me wrong I love some of the daily vloggers I really do. I can't keep up with all the dailies though I try and even one to two of my faves have scaled back now. Anyways, hearing him share that he got depressed and bored watching his own dailies spoke volumes. And the last thing I want to do is get stuck in a rut too when I already escaped from one. Such is life once you live and you learn. We are a comfy and cozy family so we know all too well the art of vegging out around the house, neighborhood and juggling errands. Though posting videos is fun and addicting I'm not yet on the same page with the banality of posting our day to day life just yet, my mind may change so I use my words carefully. What would you like to see on our Youtube channel?

Moving on...this is a food blog though right? Here we go, the Mojo Criollo marinade is popular for my sister and I to use during summer barbecues. It was especially popular when we would host the combined birthday parties for our kids. Usually we will shortcut it and get the Goya brand. However, this past weekend I was feeling adventurous and inspired so I decided that I would make the marinade from scratch. There are key components it seems across the board. You want to have your citrus coupled with strong robust and aromatic flavors. I am pretty sure I butchered the pronunciation which is shameful because I do speak a little Spanish. (Pron: Mo-ho Cree-O-Yo)

Mojo Criollo Marinade
Orange Juice (We used one and fresh squeezed)
Grapefruit Juice (We used one and fresh squeezed)
Lime Juice (We used one and some fresh squeezed SN: With each citrus I allowed little traces of the pulp to get into the blender as I juiced.
Fresh Garlic (5 Cloves)
Half of one yellow onion small to medium sized cut in quarters.
2-3 bunches of fresh cilantro
2-3 bunches of fresh oregano (leaves no stem)
1 Tablespoon of Kosher salt (more can be used to the taste)
Blend all of your ingredients together in the blender until smooth.
Mojo criollo is a great marinade for chicken, beef, and pork. Think of it like Frank’s you can put that sh--- on everything! For best results marinate your meet overnight. If you don’t have that type of time, then give it at least 30 minutes. It’s very flavorful so have fun, be creative, and enjoy it!
How will you use your Mojo Criollo marinade?

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