The only banana bread recipe you should be using.

I get so caught up in nostalgia, I have a special loyalty to somehow represent a period of time that is long over. I don’t ever really “get over” things, I carry these memories like an emotional weight vest. Some are good, many are bad, it helps to have both to remember why the “good ones” were good, balance. I drank an entire french press of coffee just now and the caffeine is surging through my veins as I listen to the eerie carnival sound of “The Cure”. God I love youtube….I know there are better ways to listen to music, but I love how many of the videos are uploaded with a touch of why the uploader, published it. I want to know everything about why someone else feels love for the things I love, you figure they gotta have great taste! At least in one song. I have endless weird playlists of songs that represent my psyche, some are great, some are not, but each melodic entity helped form who I am in one way or another. Sometimes when I go down the youtube rabbit hole I rediscover songs, and that is always exciting because with the song comes a slew of memories…..sometimes I will put my prize on my list, unless it releases the memories that are too painful for daily air play, then I will listen to in once and work hard to try and forget it, but it’s inside and next time it finds it way into my ears, I will feel its presence along with the fluttery feeling inside my stomach and the related anxiety surge. At least I know i’m alive! Speaking of anxiety, when I get loads of it baking helps me relax, as do cleaning tasks, so I decided to clear my freezer out of over ripe bananas I save to make banana bread and make….BANANA BREAD! (cue trumpet playing out triumphant victory tune)
I can in no way, shape, or form take credit for the recipe. I do, like everything I cook, put my own spin on it. This is the recipe.
Flour’s Famous Banana bread:
1½ cups all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour instead, it was super tender)
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon (I upped this to a full teaspoon)
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar(I just did 1 cup and then topped each loaf with a piece of fresh banana and sprinkled with turbinado sugar)
2 eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
3 ½ very ripe medium bananas (1 1/3 cups mashed)
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped (I used macadamia nuts instead and added them to the top before baking along with some toasted coconut, turned out great!)
Heat the oven to 325ºF degrees. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment, beat the sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. (Or whip by hand with an electric hand mixer until light and fluffy, about 8 minutes.)
With the mixer on low speed, slowly drizzle in the oil. Be sure NOT to pour the oil in all at once; add it slowly so that it has time to incorporate into the eggs and doesn’t deflate the air you’ve just beaten into the batter. This took about 1 minute.
Add the mashed bananas, sour cream, and vanilla and mix on low speed until just combined. Fold in the dry ingredients and nuts by hand until thoroughly combined, so there are no more flour streaks in the batter.
Pour the batter into a buttered 9×5-inch loaf pan and bake for 60 to 75 minutes, until the top of the banana bread is golden brown and springs back when you poke it in the middle. If your finger sinks when you poke it, it needs to bake a little longer. Let cool for at least 30 minutes and then pop out of the pan and serve. Keeps for 2 to 3 days at room temperature, tightly wrapped. Or store in the freezer, tightly wrapped in plastic, for up to 2 weeks and defrost overnight at room temperature.
This recipe is in weird in that, you make a sweet aioli with the eggs, sugar, and oil. I think that is the trick to its perfect texture. I used four smaller loaf tins, but if you use a large loaf pan just make sure you don’t under bake!!! Under cooking is the worst thing you can do to this and the only way it will be a disaster, besides burning it. I think this would bake up lovely as a layer cake alternating the tender cake with cream cheese frosting! A great base for seasonal fruit, like using berries since it’s summer. Or make it just how it is….you can’t lose and baking is good for stress levels! Happy baking!!!

Nutella cookie cups

Following your passions is essential to living life, but in order to do so you really have to throw insecurity out the window. Every time I do something that is overwhelmingly frightening, even if the end result isn’t what I hoped for, I always grow as a person. Personal growth isn’t this warm, fuzzy, opioid feeling…usually it’s more like this aggressive, anxious feeling that makes you check your prejudices at the door and see the world in a new way. In reality all the things we do are just a distraction from the true questions of the universe. Things are nice, acclaim is great, but like beauty it’s fleeting. If you are lucky you will end up wrinkled and wise, not botox-ed and silicon-ed, the goal of finding yourself is not something you can artificially achieve, its a journey that ends only when you die. Death is the great equalizer and doing whatever makes that knowledge tolerable is probably the best advice I feel there is. Don’t forget our mortality puts us all at the same level, those who have enough empathy to get over their own fragile egos are way more impressive to me than someone who owns a private jet. I do think self preservation is essential, but too much of it will leave you exactly where you began.
Speaking of distractions….who wants a cookie? cookiecupThis month’s degustabox was full of wonderful things. I used the King Arthur’s chocolate chip cookie mix to make cookie cups (just drop the dough into mini muffin pan and cook 12 minutes, after they are done use a spoon to press down the center) which I filled with nutella and M&M’s my son had a play date today so this made me look like the “coolest mom ever!” so using a shortcut here and there to achieve your goals is good! Especially when the shortcut is this cookie mix, which uses all natural high quality ingredients, I was totally impressed. chickparmsand I made an excellent tomato sauce with the Mutti sauce, and goya olive oil I received. We devoured the tasty “brownie batter” Thinsters….although I would recommend just calling them “brownie” as they are quite crisp so “batter” may not be the best way to describe them. The Karma wellness water reminded me of Japanese ramune sodas, only in the way you press the top to release the vitamins, it tasted slightly sweet which made it more like a soft drink than water per se, I am guessing I would need to drink more of this to experience the full benefit. I really enjoyed the Waffle Waffle, I heated mine up, and it was very tasty and done in traditional Belgian style, so it was chewier and denser than your run of the mill waffle. These products were the standout for me this month, happy cooking!!!

10 life lessons I learned working at restaurants

I made Tona’s garlic edamame recipe because I was craving them like crazy, and this is my favorite way to eat edamame, I got nostalgic and I was thinking about all the things I’ve learned working in restaurants, so I compiled a list, wanna hear it? If not click on the highlighted word “recipe” above to get Chef Tony’s method for edamame bliss or if you are up for it, read on…..
I was raised in the kitchen, if we weren’t at our family restaurant we were eating at the local Chinese restaurant my mother was a waitress at before I was born, or visiting my Greek relatives at their respective tavernas (my parents met working at my Uncle Speros supper/dance club). I sat dutifully on the cutting board and watched my mother grill cook, dad tend bar, and siblings doing prep. I could use a deep fryer to make my own french fries and pour a proper keg beer, with help from standing on a milk crate, by the time I was four. I made my first steak dinner at home (mom was working at the restaurant) when I was nine. I was taking to go orders and hostessing at 11, waitressed at 12, prep and dishes by 13 and was working in other restaurants besides the family’s by 15. I feel that although these statements are legit from a lifetime of experience they are alas….opinions….so take out of it what you like:
10. Making stock is a good analogy for life….fill it with good quality, simple things, take it low and slow, pay attention to the details, skim it of impurities and the fat, often, don’t rush it and you will have a great thing.
9. Cooks are rockstars….well because 50% of them are usually musicians(may differ in your area, but very true in Portland), and those who aren’t can school any music aficionado with their music expertise. A good playlist can make a bad day great. Never underestimate the power of music.
8. Chef/industry experience owners are the BEST owners. The worst places i’ve worked are places where the person running the joint never worked in the industry…the pay is lousy….the owners think you are low class for the career you’ve chosen. These types abuse the art, the morale is low, they are never in the establishment, they have the worst Christmas parties, they fire people by group email, and they usually skip on quality and blame the staff when customers are unhappy with the product. Don’t dedicate your life to the pursuit of cash over something you are actually passionate about everyone suffers in the process.
7. Cooks are tough, no bullshit accepted…. if you wear make-up it will run off your face while you sweat over a steaming pot, your hair extensions will be set ablaze when you light the pilot light, and don’t even get me started about fake nails and bacteria! Your expensive shoes will suffer the wrath of garbage juice leaking from the bag, or a dropped sauce bowl will stain your fancy pants if you wear em. Be prepared to look your worst in the climax of the rush, this job is not for the faint of heart, the precious, or the high maintenance this shit is real, and I realized I respect people the most in heat of the battle. Unkind words will be exchanged, blood, sweat, and tears……you must have a thick skin! Then you have to clean the whole mess up together and drink a beer. In short….don’t put on airs.
6. Clean kitchens are the best kitchens. The product is only as good as the effort you put in, a clean kitchen nets better food, and the best places I have worked have the best health inspection track records. Note: perceived fanciness and pricey are not necessarily indicators of quality or cleanliness. Expensive doesn’t equal quality, effort does.
5. You gotta have a sense of humor, and usually a macabre one. Appreciate folks while they are around and get their points of view even if you don’t agree. Some folks are huge mentors and teach you many things in a very short period of time, and sometimes you never see them again, people come and go, lessons stay with you….as do good dirty jokes. Not everyone will like you….and that’s ok. Learn as much as you can from as many people as you can, keep an open mind to be the best version of you.
4. The customer is not always right, they are in fact usually wrong, but they do pay the bills, so smile through the annoyance, do your best to make them happy. Make others feel welcome even if they are annoying or maybe just uninformed. But remember you can’t please everyone all the time. Take nothing personally.
3. Stay hydrated…yeah…and make sure you have coffee.
2. Respect whoever does the damn dishes! It’s an under appreciated gig and it may be one of the most important! No plates….no food.
1. At the moment you want to quit the most, is usually the time you are growing and becoming better. Don’t give up.

Gluten free strawberry cobbler

School’s out for Summer (In Alice Cooper’s voice)! So I am pulling out a fun recipe using seasonal fruit and the Hogson’s mills gluten free muffin mix. This month’s Degustabox has been very fun for me. The products we have tried so far are; Sir Kensington’s Ketchup, i made a batch of my Jojo recipe and served this ketchup as their dipping partner. I would describe this ketchup as classy…’s a less sweet, more tomato richness, more refined. I used some of the Brianna’s cilantro dressing to garnish fish tacos, the lime added a nice element of acid. The Julian’s recipe waffle thins were good,I received the Meyer lemon quinoa, I liked them plain, but they would be really good with vanilla and lavender ice cream. The Entenmanns’s mini apple snack pies were a hit with the kids, a little sweet for me but the apple filling was really good and full of real apples so they are a step up from the hostess variety I grew up eating. I’m really into the Brooklyn Organics Ginger cola its a great mixer with whiskey and it has no calories or artificial stuff, it is sweetened with Stevia! I think I have a plan for the Korean bbq sauce I received and plan on blogging that idea as stay tuned!
Things have been a bit busy with the end of school, work stuff, personal things, and just being me with my odd “Larry David” interactions. I have had a full load of things lately. As I get older and time goes faster my ability to tolerate anyone who isn’t willing to be real is zero, I appreciate internet love, we all do, but if I know you in real life, and we got history….but when it comes to actually showing up and you can’t fit it in…then I don’t need your “thumbs up” on facebook….that would be my advice for everyone out there…don’t forget that your time is the biggest gift you can give, and if others won’t give you theirs, put you off, make excuses, break off plans with short notice,they aren’t really your friend regardless of what they broadcast on the internet…as tough as it is…you gotta move ahead, and for those who think your instagram/facebook following is more important than those folks that have been there for you in the flesh…I feel sad for you. At some point you realize that aside from some “likes” the real folks are the ones you should’ve appreciated….cuz when shit gets real (and it always does at some point)it ain’t gonna be your “followers” who will be there. Being real means being honest (FYI: honest is not a full make up photo shoot with all your best angles, looking as casual as you can trying to portray your #reallife with a humble brag explanation) we are all human, we are flawed, but I will no longer let anyone make me feel like their time is more important than mine because it isn’t…and if they feel that way…then you have to realize maybe they weren’t ever really a friend, they just needed you for something. Quality, not quantity. Adulting can really suck sometimes, but the clarity from it helps you utilize your precious time a bit more wisely.
Recipe time:
You will need:
1 box of Hodgson Mill Gluten free muffin mix
4 Tablespoons butter
1/4 Cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 Cup milk
1 1/2 Cup fruit filling, I made strawberry filling (1 pint hulled strawberries, 1/2 cup sugar,1/4 cup water, cook together till thickens and berries break down) but you can use any pie filling you like, jam, even canned peaches are good in a pinch, just add a little almond extract.
4 4-6 oz ramikens or an 8×8 pan.
Preheat your oven 375.
In each ramiken add 1 Tablespoon of butter, or add all of it to 8×8 vessel, place in oven.
Mix up the rest of your ingredients except fruit filling.
Pull pan or ramikens out of oven, butter should be melted, spoon your batter into each equitably, then spoon on fruit, making sure not to mix them together as your batter will “puff up” and make that classic cobbler effect.
Cook 15 minutes, if golden brown and the fruit is bubbly they are good to go, serve warm with whipped cream, ice cream, or naked….its all good. And never forget the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have other do unto you, treat others how you like to be treated…or don’t be a self centered jerk…there are many ways to say it but its so important for humans to remember and live by. Happy cooking!

Throwback classics: Spaghetti Supreme Potluck salad


Nelly once rapped “Sweat, wet, gettin hot up in this joint”, welcome to Summer! With that comes the time to make recipes that won’t heat up my 100 year old Portland four square house basically no use of the oven…we still haven’t bit the bullet and got central air yet. Part of me feels like my PDX lifestyle would lose a bit of grit in the process if I start refrigerating the air, then again I think I need to soften my persona a bit anyhow….soooo…next home improvement is A/C!
I am going to start off by talking about the era in which this salad made an entrance into my life. I was in jr. high. I was a rather chunky, outgoing, social outcast, clad in ill fitting thrift store duds. Grunge was the buzzword du jour and I was stuck smack dab in the middle of my awkward formative years with GenX leading the path (I am oddly not quite a genxer but not quite a millennial…a “Genennial??)! I was active with a Masonic girls youth group and whenever we would have a potluck one of the moms would always present a version of this salad and it was always the first bowl empty. Not only is this salad delicious, it is simple to prepare with the help of our secret weapon: “salad supreme seasoning” , it and “lemon pepper” were (and are still in many homes) all the rage in spice blends. I used Johnny’s salad elegance it’s a local version whose company is based in the PNW, but you can use one of the other varieties, the original I remember being “McCormick’s”. This seasoning has poppy seeds, sesame seeds, salty Parmesan or Romano, paprika, and other stuff including a touch of MSG, which really isn’t as awful for you as it was made out to be, everything in moderation, it’s what gives food that umami that makes you want to dive in for more. You do actually get some vegetables with this one, and you can pick and choose to your liking. Mine had:
1 lb Angel hair pasta (sub in any kind of pasta)
4 cups diced veggies:
I used bell peppers, shallots instead of traditional onions, olives, carrots. Other options: cucumbers, tomatoes, celery, broccoli, zucchini, really whatever is fresh and in season would be good bets, I would include the onions of some sort as they add a certain zest. But for folks who hate onions, you can leave them out with good results.
1 cup of olive oil
½ cup of vinegar, choose your own adventure here, plain old white vinegar works great, or go for red wine if you fancy.
¼ cup of salad supreme seasoning mix, sounds like a lot but trust me on this.
2 tsp sugar
I topped ours with fried salami cut into strips, kinda like a bacon-y vibe, you sure don’t have to add this especially if this is going along side whatever you be grillen and chillen on that day.
Cook your pasta in salted boiling water till just past al dente but not mushy, doing the longer suggested cooking time is a good way to do it. While the water is coming up to boil, chop your veggies and put in a large bowl. Mix up oil, vinegar, sugar,
and salad seasoning, mix well. When your pasta is done, drain it and rinse with cold water. Combine the pasta, veggies, and dressing and mix well. Serve chilled, can be made a day in advance and refrigerated overnight. Watch it magically disappear at your next potluck!

Alambre shrimp

We have all been to the family friendly, Tex-Mex cantinas, where things like chimichangas, frozen margaritas, and enchiladas reign supreme….we have all certainly had our heads turn when a big, sizzling plate of fajitas comes past us wafting its mouthwatering aroma from the a hot skillet carried skillfully by the server. I always figured fajitas like other things were an American invention, when in fact I have come to realize they are a take on a authentic recipe called alambre which actually has origins in Arab cuisine. Basically like fajitas, it is grilled protein, seasoned, with onions and bell peppers, frequently served with avocados. For my take on this authentic dish popular in Mexico City, I used shrimp, often times a traditional version with seafood will also feature squid, octopus, or other seafood…I stuck to wild caught pink shrimp, but beef or chicken would work as well. This dish was so popular with my family that I would consider serving it to guests or even as a passed appetizer using small tortillas. Its super easy and quick, with the whole process from start to finish taking about 30 minutes. This can easily become a weeknight staple at our house changing out the protein as one sees fit. I do like to find the origins of dishes that have gone through the process of becoming Americanized, if you do your research and respect the cultures that inspire your appetite you get a full appreciation of where the food you love comes from and the people and process of making those recipes. Food is a great catalyst for expanding your diversity.
Serves 3 to 4.
You will need:
1 lb. Medium shrimp, shelled, de-veined, tails removed.
1/4 of a red onion sliced thinly
3 cloves of garlic minced.
1 sweet red or green bell pepper, sliced.
2 tsp. tomato paste
.5 tsp each: cumin, Oregano, chili powder, salt, and pepper
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 cup cheese of choice, I used feta, but queso fresco is a great choice, mozzarella, or jack cheese would all be delicious.
6-8 taco sized tortillas I used the the white corn and wheat variety by La Tortilla Factory that I received in my May Degustabox
half of a lime cut into wedges
a handful of chopped cilantro for garnish.
In a large skillet heat oil over high heat till shimmering, add onions, garlic and spices. Toss around in the pan till onion become soft, about three minutes. Add tomato paste, stir to coat onion, garlic, and spices. Add bell pepper, toss, for about a minute. Add shrimp, making sure to coat the shrimp in the spices. Cook three minutes, remove from heat. Heat broiler, top shrimp and peppers with cheese of choice, place under broiler till cheese melts and brown a bit, about two minutes. Remove skillet from broiler and squeeze on lime and top with chopped cilantro. Serve with warmed tortillas, you can also serve this over rice with black beans in a bowl topped with salsa verde, sour cream, or guacamole!
Happy cooking! Until next time…..
P.s. if you end up making any of my recipes, please post a pic on instagram with the #lollipopsicle, I would love to see what y’all are cooking up! Thanks for reading!

Northern Utah Road trip 2017

I travel back to my hometown about once or twice a year, every year to visit with my family and friends. This year I agreed to run the Ogden Marathon relay with my bro, his kids, and a friend of my niece. My husband, being the good sport that he is agreed to drive down with me this year as I am super paranoid about flying on airplanes right now. It’s a good eleven hours without stopping, and you always have to stop, but for the most part the drive is beautiful and there are lots of fun places to see on the way (that is a whole other post). I figured I would mention a few of the highlights of my trip in case someone out there needs some ideas of things to do or see, or stay when they find themselves in the midst of the Northern part of the Zion curtain.
Ogden (O-town)
I have waxed poetic about my hometown before, and I still think it is a great place with loads of potential and I always enjoy my time there.
I always try to get in touch with my roots! This is always the most important part for me to hang out with all the awesome friends and family that still like me even though they have seen me at my very worst, even better if they invite you to eat dinner and they know how to make some great grilled deliciousness or they have epic beards!fb_img_1496173380829

A huge thanks to those folks that went out of their way to spend time with us….seriously it means the world to me, I wish I had photos of everyone and everything but I don’t. Even if you aren’t from Ogden, I promise you will make some fast friends just by chatting up some locals!
Participate in some of the great outdoor activities:
Hiking, biking, skiing, running, pickleball, hunting, Ogden is a sportsman’s paradise. I am pretty much terrible at running and I did a beautiful 5 mile section of the marathon relay in the best time per mile I have ever done, it was mostly downhill in gorgeous Ogden canyon, a special shout out to bluetooth headphones, coaching from my niece Xena, and Rage against the machine for helping me stay motivated. I felt really accomplished that I conquered the fear of distance running I had and did something with my family that took teamwork, training, and a bit of “daughters of the Utah pioneers” grit. I also met some really nice people on the shuttle ride up, and the subsequent wait we had in the canyon, people are super nice and curious there. I would do it again but maybe the half so I wouldn’t have to get up at 4 am to wait till 11 am to actually run….better get training.
Support the locals who own businesses and attend their events. One of my favorite nights we had was going to the Lighthouse lounge for “Record Night” with the Digital Smoke crew. lighthouseDigital smoke sponsors a night where you can bring in your favorite vinyl, sign up on a list, and listen to it while you drink a local beer, and eat some good pub grub (drink the Ghostrider White IPA and eat a french dip). Dance with your friends to records!! Don’t have any vinyl? Lavendar Vinyl is across the street and can service your needs.vinyl
I’ve said it once and I will say it again, eat at Tona! nigiritonarollBasically you can’t go wrong, they are one of those rare places that just keep getting better and better, tell them I sent you and order the chef’s choice nigiri, the maki rolls, or basically any special they have. You won’t be disappointed.
I don’t get out much in my normal life, so whilst on vacay, my husband decided that we should try out Airbnbing a few spots one of which was in Salt Lake City, we met in SLC along time ago at the U of U so SLC holds a great deal of nostalgia for us. We left our kids with the family in Ogden for a few nights and he and I hit a few of our favorite spots, and found a few new ones. We got an Airbnb on Capitol hill, for $80 a night18620749_10212563155934396_7706742343535191453_o
it was a bargain with its 100 year old charm, 3 bedrooms, 2 bath, and kept in pristine condition by the owner, it was also close to where we had our first apartment before we backpacked through Europe and got hitched way back when.
Go for coffee at Caffe D’ Bolla! caffedbollaThis shop has been open nearly as long and Jarom and I have been together, and it’s a must for any coffee connoisseur. Caffe d’ bolla rivals anything we have here in Portland, start with whatever freshly roasted espresso he has (a real macchiato does not contain caramel and is served in espresso demitasse) and if you have the time and want to splurge, experience his exceptional and rare siphoned coffee. Let John be your guide and taste coffee like you never have in your life.
Eat at the Red Iguana, but don’t order the gringo stuff (I’m talking to you crisp shell beef taco, make those at home its easy!)get the mole any mole, I am partial to the verde, but Jarom ordered the rib special with a mango version that blew my mind!18699508_10212565083782591_4675346322359277907_o Expect a wait, they are always busy, and consider ordering the jalapeno appetizer that is stuffed with shrimp and queso fresco, goes great with a rocks margarita! Our waiter was great and loved sharing his love for the food they serve and their culture, he gave me some tips on getting better at pronouncing in Espanol, not to mention hooked us up with some tres leches cake!
Go to the Gilgal Sculpture Garden, it’s weird, it’s behind Chuck o’ rama, and it is a fine way to round out the whole Temple square, LDS history part of Salt Lake.18836948_10212613075942365_5315557460470264258_o One man’s passion for his religion with a twist of masonry, and love of sculpture is a total gem for the curious and open minded tourist, plus Joseph Smith sphinx nuff’ said.
Check out some sassy nightlife with a local, I was lucky enough to have a night out #salazarstyle with many drinks and fun.18700506_10212568345584134_7449614075780660030_o
Next we traveled on to Park City, home of the Sundance film festival, and more chefs per capita than anywhere else on the planet. We Airbnbed an entire house (zillow value 800K) for about $180 a night! It was incredible and located in the heart of the action, with a hot tub, trampoline, and home gym. If I ever moved back to Utah, I would live in Park City…..make sure you check out Mainstreet, walk down, shop, ride the free trolley back up, walk down the other side, shop.mainstreetpc Check out the Banksy on the side of a gallery.18673304_10213072909197688_8624729797930514568_o
Go to the High West distillery saloon distillery-signTake a tour, sample the wares, decide which variety is your favorite, have the best “old fashioned” of your life!highwest Buy some merch and bottles for the road.18768203_10213075008810177_6953547034312047360_o We tried hard to take everyone to eat at the saloon, but it was a three hour wait by the time we rounded up the troops. So we ended up at the Baja Cantina, which you should skip, it was expensive, the food was awful, and the wait was too long for the atrocious fare. It was however family friendly, but I can’t believe a world class resort would house such a terrible, out of date, disappointment of a restaurant. Canned refried beans, cremated hockey puck burgers, or cold fish tacos anyone? If you read this Baja Cantina….step your game up.
Do, do the fun activities at the resort, we did the Alpine slide which is a classic, but I wish we would’ve spent the day doing the other activities….Alpine coaster you are on my radar for next time. In all it was a great trip and there is really no right or wrong way to do it, but I hope I could give you some inspiration to get out there and do your own road trippin adventure! See more photos and some fun boomerang vids of the trip on my instagram!

Nando’s Peri-Peri Shrimp in lettuce cups, cricket protein in ranch flavor and why I am ready for self driving cars.

Okay I am going to get right down to it….first Degusta review and recipe, I was recently told by another blogger, that he hates having to read the backstory on food blogs to get to the recipe, so for those folks I am putting that info first, it is your choice if you want to take it deeper at that point.
April’s degusta had some really interesting products, my recipe will feature the Nando’s Garlic peri-peri sauce. This recipe is so fast that you could have it on the table before you can even order pizza. It’s healthy, and I do really love it when I make something that isn’t just delicious but also low in carb, fat, gluten and calories. It will counter act the bagel sandwich I ate for breakfast! LOL.
Peri-peri Shrimp:
1 pound of shrimp, deveined, tails removed. So you can eat the whole damn thing with reckless abandon!
¼ Nando’s, I used garlic but they have several other varieties
1 tsp old bay seasoning
½ tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp mirin, or white wine
1 Tbsp peanut oil
4 lettuce leaves that can be good for cupping the shrimp.
Garnishes that you like: I used tiny diced red and green bell peppers.
Marinate the shrimp in the peri-peri, old bay, mirin/wine, pepper, for up to 20 minutes.
Heat a skillet on high, add peanut oil, when the oil shimmers at you like a glitter covered stripper, add your marinated shrimp, making sure they don’t crowd each other, you want them to brown up. After about 3 minutes flip em, and cook another minute or two, turn of the heat. Place your lettuce cups on two plates, fill them with the shrimp and top with garnishes. Ya done, son, eat.
The next product I wanted to review was the Wilton’s Candy Melts drizzle pouch, I had, shall we say less success with this. (pic)
I followed the directions and reheated twice on top of that but mine never really got “drizzle” like, mine was more of a “plop pouch” with the consistency of peanut butter. That being said, it was rather tasty, and my kids really enjoyed it…plop and all. I think it needs a little less stabilizer (palm oil).
The lovely Candy chewy caramels were a hit, they are even wrapped with wax paper like the homemade ones the neighbors would give out at christmas when I was a kid …10 outta 10. I love Mutti tomato products anyway, so I was stoked to get tomato concentrate in a tube, best way to buy and use tomato paste, you utilize more product with the tube as the can, can be precarious to get all the paste out…WINNER! I liked the Bush’s hummus made easy, but the only thing that bothered me is the added sugar, hummus doesn’t need added sugar in my opinion so I probably will stick to buying tahini and making my own. I like the Better oats, and I would buy this again, it’s a lot heartier and tasty than conventional instant oats, great if you add some fresh fruit and toasted walnuts. The PR bar had a chalky aftertaste to me, but my 10 year old daughter loved it, so if i needed a quick meal replacement or snack if I was in a rush, I would feed these to my kids. The “chorido’s” are a snack food made with cricket protein, they have mole, ranch, and salsa flavor, they kind of look like a frito, and my kids loved them. I find it rather inspiring that a company is making a snack food that contains a sustainable protein, yeah I felt a bit weird at first, but other cultures have been utilizing insects as snacks for centuries. I loved the cafe Bustelo instant espresso, it was super easy to make or carry with you to mix with hot water, haters gonna hate on instant coffee, but I think the Europeans do it quite well. I don’t have a K-cup machine for the skinny girl tea, so I will pass those along to a friend who has one!
After nearly getting hit by a speeding van that ran a red light today, I have decided that I am on board with self driving cars. I have been in more than my share of minor-mid range car wrecks in my life. Auto accidents are fucking horrible, and I think that driving is hands down the most dangerous thing we do in a day. Yet, with all the hazards, health consequence, and expense, humans are totally addicted to cars and they are still some archaic shrine to social status! You know those “life flashes before your eyes” moments? I have felt it only twice in my 36 years, the second time was this morning. I made it out unscathed except I spooked myself real good, my heart still pounds due to adrenaline release, some folks do “extreme” sports and things to feel this….I don’t like feeling this, some say it makes you “feel alive”, I totally agree but it’s that lingering sense of how fragile life is that remains. Fragile things are usually beautiful, but often aren’t intended to last forever, just like being a human. I think the lesson is to focus on being present. Anyway, get us some self driving vehicles Elon, I trust the robots more than the humans. And if that offends you…you probably haven’t been in any car accidents.

How to Barbecue chicken anything.

Whoa Nelly! It’s been a while hasn’t it? As life goes, on occasion, things got a bit hectic there for a bit. Usually “no news”…is dull…but “no news” is also known to be “good news”. I got a bit of news, one of those things is my Dad’s struggles with his health (insert frowny emoji here) there is really no point in going into details but for the last several years he has faced some serious setbacks. He is still here to tell about it so that in itself is pretty admirable. I think our society needs to be more open and respectful towards age related issues, add ageism to the agenda, but Dad has again dodged a bullet and I was chatting and laughing with him via telephone 10 minutes ago and I am very glad we could. My oldest child is 10! That’s a decade….a decade is a large chunk of existence….that feels like a milestone (cue the inspiring “eye of the tiger” style music) I remember folks telling me when she was a newborn “how fast it goes” and I remember in my sleep deprived mind thinking how bad I just really wanted to shower….but it is…..time goes by…before you want it to and you try to preserve a tiny little taste of the moment before you lose it. A big shoutout to instagram for helping out in that department, I ain’t much of a scrapbooker myself so digital recording helps me. Last month’s degustabox was a winner, I made that pretty pizza at the top of the page with the Boboli crust sample, and it turned out quite well. You can really barbeque chicken anything if you follow a few simple steps:
Chicken, cooked, it can be breast chunks, or thigh shreds, or ground. Just cooked in advance, about two cups worth.
½ or more cups of barbecue sauce, feel free to chose your own adventure here, I really like that I can buy Podnah’s at Freddy’s!
Smoked gouda…trust me….a few handfuls
Red onions or green onions, do you.
Cilantro good for contrast and adds a fresh element.
Bread like product, premade pizza crust, homemade pizza crust, pita, French bread, country bread, gf pizza loaf, cauliflower crust for you pinteresters!
Bacon is optional
Heat your oven to 450 degrees, top bread of choice with sauce, chicken, cheese, bacon, onions…bake 10 min or so….remove from oven and sprinkle with cilantro.
We went to Astoria….again…I have these fantasies sometimes to escape the perils of urban living, like when I have to move a homeless camp to park or hit another pothole in traffic, I imagine what life would be like if I lived in Astoria…no one blocking my driveway! Smoked fish ery’day! BEER! But then I zip back to reality and realize that I really actually like where I am….but I do love checking out Astoria homes on Zillow! Anyway, we went to Astoria for a few days while the kids were out on Spring break and for Ava’s birthday it was awesome…well there was one steamer pail of sandy clams…but besides that it was awesome. I, of course drank great beer, ate good stuff, and had fun, but this trip I also met some “characters” you know the type, kinda chatty, but not in a creepy way, randoms that you meet at coffee shops, bowling, shopping, or at crab shacks. You don’t encounter these types often, but when you meet an authentic stranger it can really make the human part of life more inspiring…you will never see these people again, but you had an authentic conversation in that short meeting…and authentic conversations are hard to come by in the city.
One of these “characters’ was “Fast Eddie” he was the sole cook and employee on duty when we went to a crab shack on the way back to Portland. He took orders, handled the cash, cooked, and served! And while doing all this with a rather busy crab shack, he narrated stories about his life. I knew when he told me to ladle my own chowder he would a great guy to work with. He was quite “Fast” indeed and everyone was happy. As he was busing our table as we left I asked if I could take his picture and he seemed rather flattered, he posed by the door to the kitchen and was quite proud, it was inspiring and he seemed familiar to me, like the ghosts of all the cooks who were mentors in my cooking journey. Sadly, Eddie told us that he had a heart problem that was pretty serious and that he isn’t quite as fast as he used to be, but I told him he could smoke guys half his age…and he seemed pleased. My favorite line was when a guy walks in and says “What’s good?” and Eddie says “Everything is good, this is the best seafood on the coast, I fished Alaska for 35 years..what kind of question is that?” then he up sold them a plate of crab cakes……priceless.
I really like people…but sometimes I need a recharge….and changing my scenery sometimes makes what I already have show its full worth and my full admiration.

Bircher muesli

The month of love is almost done, therefore it is time to review this month’s Degustabox.
I am going to start with the recipe for my picture above. Bircher muesli is a delicious blend of yogurt and fresh fruit mixed with crispy stuff, usually coconut and oats. Invented by the Swiss I have never had a bircher muesli I didn’t like. Luckily, this month’s box included some Grace Foods coconut chips which I really liked on their own, crispy like a potato chip and just as addictive they were a great, low sugar way to add texture to my dish. I used Walker’s shortbread cookie crumbs in place of oats….these cookies are so good after the entire container was devoured by my family I had to find a use for the crumbs left in the package!
Bircher Muesli
1 cup yogurt, I used a full fat European style plain variety, but choose your own adventure here.
A handful of your favorite fresh berries or fruit of choice
A few tablespoons of Coco chips
1 Tablespoon of Walker’s shortbread cookie crumbs
A drizzle of honey
Seriously this is sooo simple and presents beautifully for guests at a brunch. Give it a go!
So I made Cincinnati style chili (recipe post to come) and topped it with a bit of the Nando’s peri-peri sauce I received, and I really enjoyed the diversity in flavor it provided in comparison to the usual sriracha or tabasco. Nando’s has really delicious citrus notes that highlighted the fruity elements of the Bird’s eye chilies in the sauce, I would use this anywhere you would use hot sauce and I would recommended it to any of the “Chili heads” out there.
I’ve always liked Jones soda, and this month we received a bottle of the “Orange and cream” variety. I tried a sip before I made the kids small Jones’ soda floats with vanilla ice cream. If I am going to give my kids soda I would pick Jones over many others because the flavors and delicious and they are made with pure cane sugar.
I have tried Popchips a few times, and I have never been a huge fan. I was really surprised by how much I loved the ones with ridges that were in our box. If I could tell the popchips folks directly, all of their products should have ridges! They make them so much tastier, and the texture is crunchy and light.
The Ricola immunity drops were great, they are packed with ginseng and they really came in handy while I had a cold.
I am yet to try the slendier noodles, but I am excited to use them in a recipe for traditional noodles. I can say my kids ate the PR bar I received before I got to taste it, but with they enjoyed it with gusto, so I am guess it is quite tasty and it is gluten-free and full protein. Last but certainly not least is the Green & Blacks dark chocolate with sea salt, the salt is the flaky variety and lends an addictive crunch to the rich, dark chocolate. Happy Cooking!
(I was given these products as a sample to review, the opinions are mine.)