10. Cool as a Cucumber Smoothie: EWWW who drinks cucumbers? That was my exact thoughts
9. Get a little Cuban in ya: Finally got to check out Casona in Collingswood which is supposed to be SJ's best spot for Cuban cuisine. We went for brunch and it was absolutely delicious! Service was a little slow but the ambiance was very cozy. I had the Habano Maduro which was a giant stuffed plantain (love them) covered in citrus pork, Swiss cheese, avocado sauce, and some pickled onion thingies that I liked, surprisingly. There were so many interesting layers of flavors in this dish. I have not ever tasted anything like this. The portions were huge especially after eating many arepas (cornmeal patties) and cheese empanadas as an appetizer. I loved the guacamole at Casona. Very fresh and flavorful. Check this place out for brunch. Prices are decent and there is something on the menu for everyone.
8. Star spangled cake: CAKE!!!! Who doesn't love cake? I wanted make a special cake for 4th of July. You gotta have cake after scarfing down lots of juicy burgers and greasy dogs, right? This cake can be made for Memorial Day or Labor Day bbq's too. I took a simple yellow box cake mix and made the batter according to the directions on the box. I split the batter in half. I placed the 1st half of the batter in a greased 9x13 glass pan. The second half I placed in another 9x13 inch glass pan but this one I lined with parchment paper. Bake both cakes according to the directions minus 10 minutes because the cakes are thinner. Remove from oven and cool. Meanwhile, take some vanilla or cheesecake flavored sugar free Jello and make according to 5 minute directions on the box. Then, fold in some strawberry or blueberry preserves and refrigerate for 10 minutes. When cake has cooled, spread pudding/preserve mixture onto cake #1. Carefully take the cake out of pan #2 with paper attached. Flip it over onto cake 1and remove paper. Top with Cool Whip and Fresh strawberries and blueberries for a yummy yet patriotic dessert everyone will love.
6. Pickling Peppers: The Experiment: I picked a lot of peppers out of my garden. I have a bunch more that are probably ready right now. What to do with all these peppers? I decided to try pickling these banana peppers because they are mighty tasty on a sammich. I tried a variety of recipes I Googled. I wasn't sure which one would turn out but so far I have 2 batches sitting in my fridge. Batch 1 was a mixture of garlic, white vinegar, water, pickling spice, salt and pepper. I was told that I should not have used tap water because they peppers won't stay as fresh as long due to the chlorine in the water. Oh well. I know that for next time. For batch 2 I decided to add a little flavor and used apple cider vinegar, garlic, pickling spice, and honey to cut back on the acid from the vinegar. I boiled the mixtures and poured the hot liquid over the sliced banana pepper rings. Stay tuned for the results! If they turn out I will be producing mass quantities for some yummy Christmas gifts!
5. Sorry more cucumbers...salad: Like my BIG cucumber? Only thing to do with this big guy and that is to make salad. Nothing quite tastes like summer like a fresh cucumber salad. Here's my version where I used fresh ingredients from my herb and vegetable garden. The ingredients include: sliced, peeled, and quartered cucumbers, halved grape or cherry tomatoes, a few splashes of rice wine vinegar, 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil, fresh mint and basil chopped, minced garlic, salt, pepper and crumbled goat cheese. Mix well and refrigerate for at least a half hour before serving. Cool, easy, and fresh, this salad goes with any summer meal. Great for parties, just keep it chilled by placing the bowl of salad on top of a bowl of ice to keep it cool and crisp.
4. How far would you travel to try a...
Pulled pork cupcake? -Washington D.C. Bourbon Steak Lounge boasts this $9 appetizer that is filled with mouth watering pulled pork shoulder and stuffed into a cheesy scallion biscuit, rumored to be very similar to the biscuits served at Red Lobster.
Tempura fried pizza? -NYC Hake Sake Bar has the ultimate bar food Japanese style. What isn't good fried in the light and crispy tempura batter. Certainly some greasy New York style pizza fried up Tempura style might be worth the drive.
Lobster roll? Boston is quite a drive for a tasty snack but if you are really craving this New England favorite, try the Oyster House in Philadelphia. Their succulent sandwich costs a hefty $29 dollars but it is cheaper than makin the hike for the real thing all the way up in Bean Town.
3. Oh Snap! Sugar Snap Peas on the grill? Oh yes, my friends. Grilling sugar snap peas is the perfect way to bring out the sugary sweetness in these beauties. Toss some sugar snap peas in some olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add garlic powder or freshly minced garlic if you'd like. Place the peas on a grill pan and grill over medium high heat for 2 to 3 minutes per side. Leave them on a minute or two longer for a more charred pea if you desire. Finish with some fresh herbs and serve over rice. Goes great with grilled fish.
2. Dining Out: Wilmington Waterfront: When I told people that Rob and I were celebrating our wedding anniversary along the Wilmington Waterfront, they asked "isn't that in the ghetto?" No, it's not the ghetto. Wilmington waterfront is a half mile strip nestled in between the train station and the ghetto but well worth the visit. There is a very nice walking path you can take all the way down to the Dupont Environmental Education Center (you can grab 2 Geocaches there too) and then eat and drink at a variety of restaurants along the river. They have all kinds of events going on such as live bands and all you can eat crab cruises. We had the famous crab pretzel at Firestone (the restaurant, not the tire place) which is a cozy little eatery on the waterfront with inside and outside dining. I loved the very rummy Vanilla Pirate cocktail. Best deviled eggs I have ever had. Totally worth rolling my window down for on the way home. Thank you, Rob. Grab a drink or two at Joe's crab shack or some ceviche at Harry's. Take a romantic stroll along the waterfront, sit in some Adirondack chairs, walk along the well manicured gardens, take your shoes off, and just be.
1. Put a cork in it! Something I can now proudly cross of my bucket list. I bottled wine!!! My dear friend Marsha Gaventa invited us to bottle some yummy nectarine wine over at Cedarvale Winery. We had a great time and also gained a valuable learning experience; do not leave your finger in the corking machine for too long. Bottling wine is hard work but we made some new friends and helped out our pals over at Cedarvale. I found out that whatever is left in the hose is called "hose wine" (duh). They can't sell that stuff because it hasn't gone through the filter. There's nothing wrong with it, you just have to drink it right away. I don't think that is a problem, especially with Cedarvale wines. Their fruit wines taste like they were picked right of the vine, or tree. You can also cook with it! I have made some nice reduction sauces for pork with the nectarine wine but it is also the perfect summer sippin' wine. As Marsha would say "It's lovely"...