Friday, July 14, 2017

Lake life

Last week was our annual trip to the north woods of Wisconsin, where my husband's family has a wonderful place on North Twin Lake.  We swam, we skied, we tubed, we pontooned, we kayaked, we SUP'd, we read, we played Euchre and Scrabble and Chronology, we watched movies, we read books, we ran, we biked.  Uncle John led the annual fireworks display.  And before anyone else got there Doug, Dylan and I went to the big 4th of July shindig in downtown Phelps and witnessed something called a Chicken Drop.  Wow.  Google it.  The look on my 16-year-old's face? Priceless!

And, as usual, we ate and drank extremely well.    I didn't take enough pictures but here, for your planning or cooking or drinking pleasure, were last week's menus:  

2017 Summer Phelps Menu

Sunday 7/2:  Arrivals—13 peeps  

Monday 7/3:  14 peeps

Tuesday 7/4:  13 peeps

Wednesday 7/5: 13 peeps 
Chicken Chimichurri-  rosemary roasted potatoes, steamed green beans, lemon cake

Thursday 7/6: 13 peeps
Cook’s night off – Alexander's pizza

Friday 7/7:  14peeps
14 peeps  slow roasted ribs (recipe below), corn black bean salad, watermelon, apple crisp

Saturday 7/8
Baked Mostaccioli, green salad, garlic bread, ice cream shop

Fall-off-the-bone, Slow Roasted Baby-back Ribs:

Baby back ribs - approx 1/2 slab per person.  
(For 14 people we had 18 slabs and every bite was gone)

Soak the ribs overnight in Coke.  It's the key!  My sister Julie taught me this trick - it tenderizes the meat.  

In the morning, drain the coke and place the ribs rib-side-up in a roasting pan (position the ribs so they're not sitting on the bottom of thepan and the eventual grease:  arc the ribs so the meat is up and away from bottom.)

Cover them with some bbq sauce.  We use Sweet Baby Ray's original.  Don't let them swim in it, but do make sure each slab is covered in sauce.   For 18 slabs we used about three jars of bbq sauce.

Cover tightly with foil and cook in a 300 degree oven all day - about 8 hours.
 You can uncover for the last half hour if you like them a little crispier.

Using tongs, lift the ribs out of the sauce/grease and place on a platter, cut them into sections of three or four ribs, arrange them all on a big messy platter and throw some extra sauce on top and to pass on the side.  They will fall off the bone and it's a huge mess but never fear, because it's KILLER!

And, of course, we have a new favorite summer cocktail. Also killer, but in a different way.

Easy gin-punch recipe

Limmer's punch
Prep: 10 minutes
Makes: 12 cocktails, about 5 ounces each
Orange blossom water is available at Whole Foods and other major grocery stores, plus liquor stores.

1 bottle (750 milliliters) gin
10 ounces fresh lemon juice
10 ounces rich simple syrup (2 parts sugar to 1 part water), see note
Orange blossom water, to taste
1 bottle (750 milliliters) sparkling water, chilled
Lemon wheels
Combine gin, lemon juice and syrup in a punch bowl; stir to blend. Add orange blossom water to taste, then stir. Add large block of ice and top with chilled sparkling water. Garnish with lemon wheels.

Rich simple syrup: Heat two parts sugar and 1 part water to a boil in a small saucepan. Cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Allow to cool before using.

Limmer's punch — for one
Prep: 5 minutes
Makes: 1 drink
2 ounces gin
2 ounces sparkling water, chilled
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 ounce rich simple syrup
1 dash orange blossom water
Lemon slice
Shake all ingredients, except the lemon slice, with ice and strain into an ice-filled Collins glass. Garnish with a lemon slice.

 Happy Summer!


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

La boda y el viaje

Back to reality after 10 days in Europe - Spain, France & Italy - I am still in a post-vacation fog.  But I offer these early observations:

Weddings are magical, particularly when they involve people you love dearly - like our niece Becca and her husband Kalle - and when they take place in a fantastically magical place, like a castle in Spain:

Cava is delicious.

as are these two new favorite summer drinks:

The drink is prepared with prosecco (or champagne) wine, a dash of some bitter liqueur such as Aperol, Campari, Cynar, or, especially in Venice, with Select. The glass is then topped off with sparkling mineral water. It is usually served over ice in a lowball glass (or sometimes a martini glass or wine glass) and garnished with a slice of orange, or sometimes an olive, depending on the liqueur.

Tinto de Verano - Definitely the drink of the trip.
Put a few ice cubes in a wine glass and fill halfway with red wine.
Add either
-sprite, if you like it sweet
-a dash of lemonade/sprite then some sparkling water
-a little slice of orange to make it purdy and even more yum.

Everyone enjoyed tinto.

Spaniards never go to sleep.  The DJ started at midnight!

Collioure, in France, was one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. 
 I wish we had stayed longer.

Driving across France and getting stuck for hours in a french traffic jam is sub-optimal.  Arles was lovely, but one should never ever try to navigate its old-city streets in a large BMW.  But you might see this scene as you're wandering through its streets,

and we had the best meal of the trip here.

Rome is so enchanting, such an intoxicating and delightful mix of appreciating the past and living in the moment.  Did you know that in addition to the fact the colliseum is a 60,000 seat, four-storied stadium built in the ancient world, it had a retractable cover?  For real!  And Rome was the one city with plentiful, free water spouts everywhere.  Why?  Because the Romans built aqueducts two thousand years ago.  Those Romans were geniuses.
Apollo and Daphne still make me weep. 
 The pantheon is, well, perfect.  And Trastevere is the best neighborhood.

Barcelona offers such a sensory wallop.  Gorgeous art, amazing architecture, fantastic food, delicious drinks and a totally jubilant vibe.

Gaudi's Sagrada Familia is stunning.

Tapas made me sigh with joy.
Tinto and sangria made me, well, you know.  
and My family made it perfect. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

one-two, plus three.

Busy summer (at last!) days, very little planning - what's a family to do? Figure out a meal that can stretch to two!  I looked in my freezer and found a few chicken breasts and off we went.....

Day ONE;  Chicken Burritos

Throw a few chicken breasts in the crock pot.  Add some taco seasoning if you have it. Cook it on low all day, then cut it up and throw it back in crock pot.

 I make my own taco seasoning and always have a tiny tupperware filled with it.
2 Tbsp chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1-1/2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp pepper

Sautee up some peppers and onions in some garlic and olive oil.  Throw in a little cayenne or crushed red pepper if you want a little more heat.

 If your daughter is vegetarian, cook up something called "Mexican Crumbles."  I have no idea.
Cook up some rice.  I added some crushed tomatoes, salt & pepper
  I made a mini batch of pico de gallo. Why don't I make this all the time?
I combined: 
1 can drained, diced tomatoes (didn't have enough fresh but that would be better)
1 small diced onion
1 bunch cilantro, chopped fine
2 or so limes, squeezed
1/2 jalapeno, minced fine (more or less depending on how hot you like it)
salt - to taste.  I probably used 1/2 tsp

Heat up some tortillas, some beans if you have them, and put them out with some shredded cheddar and giant tortillas and you've got yourself a one-dish FEAST.

Clearly, I was too starving to photograph the actual end product, but you get the idea.

TWO: Chicken/pasta/broccoli/parmesan mash

We had a lot of leftover chicken.  So, on day two, here's what I did:
Cook up a lb of pasta, whichever shape floats your boat.

Steam up some broccoli  - or roast it or saute it - it's your party!  I had no time so threw the broccoli right in the pot with the water and it worked out swimmingly.  I also sauteed a little spinach I had leftover.

Drain the pasta (and broccoli if cooking on stovetop), rinse a bit under cold water, then throw the whole situation in a large bowl right on top of the leftover chicken, to heat it up a bit

  Add tons of S&P and parmesan and crushed red pepper. 
 I also threw in a little Italian salad dressing to give it some moisture.  Delish.


Last night I finally planned a meal and we had one of my favorites:  Barefoot Contessa's Orzo with roasted shrimp and feta.  Recipe below.  It's a WINNER.

This is a damned fine meal, friends.  Enjoy.



Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Fill a large pot with water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and a splash of oil, and bring the water to a boil. Add the orzo and simmer for 9 to 11 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it's cooked al dente. Drain and pour into a large bowl. Whisk together the lemon juice, 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Pour over the hot pasta and stir well.
Meanwhile, place the shrimp on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and spread out in a single layer. Roast for 5 to 6 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through. Don't overcook!
Add the shrimp to the orzo and then add the scallions, dill, parsley, cucumber, onion, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Toss well. Add the feta and stir carefully. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour to allow the flavors to blend, or refrigerate overnight. If refrigerated, taste again for seasonings and bring back to room temperature before serving.