December 29, 2012

Aunt Peg's Wicked Good Cranberry Relish


Don't get me wrong, I still love my canned Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce but I also love my mom's cranberry relish. That's why I always serve both. Grammie Jackie used to make this cranberry relish for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. The freshly chopped cranberries and orange may make this recipe an acquired taste for some. The orange rind really gives it a zing and it will definitely kick it up a notch for your next holiday feast.

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November 24, 2012

Hot Turkey Sandwich

I love making hot turkey sandwiches the day after Thanksgiving and Christmas. Traditionally I have used Texas Toast but this year I used fresh Challah bread... and oh my... it was to die for! For my DC area friends look for Parisers Challah in your local Giant.

First I lightly toasted the buttered slices on the griddle and started with a layer of incredible oyster stuffing that my brother-in-law Andrew made.


Next I piled on the turkey and drizzled with hot gravy.


Done. Gourmet is that easy.


Now if Carlty Bryer were making these sandwiches he would drizzle gravy on top of the sandwich. In that case, you are going to want to grab a fork and knife...and maybe an extra napkin :)

November 23, 2012

Aunt Peg's Wicked Good Deviled Eggs



Hands down my favorite deviled eggs are my mom's. Done correctly, deviled eggs can create a sense of elegance to any holiday spread.  Make a few extra and you have a simple breakfast the next day. I had three this morning :)

FYI- The recipe calls for hot dog relish. In case you interpret this as just the relish you put on your hotdogs that's not what I mean. Click here to see what I'm talking about.

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November 20, 2012

Oyster Stuffing

For my husband Scott, Thanksgiving and Christmas are not complete without several servings of his mom's oyster stuffing. The first time that he asked me to try to make oyster stuffing the thought of oysters in stuffing kind of turned my stomach but it was a fond family tradition for him so I gave it a shot. I'm not going to lie, my first attempt involved pulling a random recipe off of the internet and left me with less than desirable results. Scott liked it but I think that he was desperate and I knew I could do better. First, I needed his mom's recipe and then I needed to watch the master herself put this dish together.

During Thanksgiving '07 Alicia and Ernesto came to visit for Thanksgiving and our wish came true, she made her famous oyster stuffing. Wow! It was incredible. I need an actual picture of the stuffing but wanted to get this recipe up for those of you that would like to try it this Thanksgiving. The original recipe is from River Road Recipes II "A Second Helping" with slight adaptations from her good friend Ann Guillory, a New Orleans native.

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Make a double batch...trust me... it's not going to last :)

For my DC area friends, I have been going to a local Phillips Seafood to get freshly packed oysters. If you love fresh seafood and have the time to travel downtown I highly recommend visiting the Maine Avenue Fish Market, an open air fish market on DC's Southwest waterfront. There are several vendors to choose from but I have been going to Captain White's Seafood City ever since our friends Sam and Nadya have been using them for their annual lobster/crabfest.


November 11, 2012

El Rey de las Fritas (Miami)


There is a reason why the locals... and visitors with inside info (thanks to 3 Guys from Miami)... flock to an unassuming strip mall on Callee Ocho in Little Havana. And that reason is the fritas (Cuban hamburger) from El Rey de las Fritas (The King of the Fritas). Whether it's first frita ever (like me) or you frequent various frita joints often, one bite of their Original Frita and you will be hooked. Surprised by the infusion of a secret seasoning in their 100% beef patty our delighted taste buds went into overdrive.

The Original Frita from El Rey de las Fritas 

If it's your first visit I highly recommend getting the frita that made this place famous and then dive into other tasty options on their menu like the pan con bistec (steak sandwich).


Whether you are a foodie adventurer or dining on a tight budget, check out El Rey de las Fritas, your taste buds and wallet won't be disappointed.

Where is your favorite frita joint?
El Rey de Las Fritas on Urbanspoon

El Rey De Las Fritas on Foodio54

November 10, 2012

The Cuban Sandwich


Ok, here's an example of where I don't have the perfect shot but the recipe is too good to wait. And besides, those perfect shots miss what is really going on in the background... leaving out the love, effort, and balancing act of life that goes into these recipes. As you can see, Koa is waiting for a chance to reenact the Bumpus' dogs famous dinner disaster scene from A Christmas Story and that's one of Morgan's newborn toys making an appearance in the upper right-hand corner.

Traditionally we make a huge Puerco Asado con Frijoles Negro and the following day we use the leftover roasted pork for Cuban sandwiches. I haven't found traditional Cuban bread out here in the DC area so I use Giant's club rolls. My sandwiches have yet to disapoint even the most distinguished Cuban palates.

This is how I assemble my Cuban sandwiches.

1. Drizzle a little mojo on the roasted pork, cover, and warm up in the oven.
2. Preaheat George Foreman or Paninini Press.
3. Slice bread and spread mustard on both sides (optional).
4. Place a generous portion of roasted pork on bottom slice. If you have any left over crispy skin you can chop it up and sprinkle it on top of the pork.
5. Add sliced dill pickles, ham, swiss cheese, and top piece of roll.
6. Place one sandwich at a time in the grill and press down for several minutes. I really press down on my George Foreman to get the sandwich nice and crunchy. This is somewhat of an art because you don't want the fillings to squeeze out of bread... keep an eye on that.
7. I keep the oven at 200 degrees to keep sandwiches warm until ready to serve.

FYI: If you are lactose intolerant use Boar's Head Imported Swiss Cheese.

November 4, 2012

Boston's Flour Bakery Banana Bread


I love banana bread! I have tried several recipes but my favorite traditional banana bread recipe is from Boston's Flour Bakery. You know who else loves this bread? Morgan. Here are a few shots of him scarfing down a piece.







And sharing a piece with his best buddy.







November 3, 2012

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies


This is a soft and chewy oatmeal raisin recipe that reminds my husband Scott of Stew Leonard's oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Any Stew Leonard's fans out there? If you are familiar with them, then you know this recipe is a keeper. If you are not a fan of raisins swap them out for chocolate chips.

Here is a quick trick that allows you to bake the cookies off as you need them in a hurry: After you prepare the dough, place it on a sheet of saran wrap, form into a log, and tightly wrap it. I like to make two logs per recipe.


Slice as many cookies as needed, bake, wrap the remaining dough and store in your fridge for future use. Halloween was a hectic day for us, especially after several days of hunkering down for Frankenstorm. I made the dough a few days ahead and then popped them in the oven right before our Halloween party.

Note: Due to the dough being chilled, you may need to bake the cookies for a few more minutes than the original recipe.

November 1, 2012

Guy Fieri's Morgan Burger


My friend Michelle recommended Guy Fieri's vegetarian burgers and raved about how fabulous they taste, that they're freezer friendly and even grill well.  Although I'm not a vegetarian, I have to say I love them.  Here are a few tips that Michelle passed along...

  • Use low-salt beans to make the burgers healthier
  • Really squish the beans so they hold together
  • They are freezer friendly so double or triple the recipe and enjoy them as needed
  • These are awesome with Chipotle Mayo!

I found that Bobby Flay's Chipotle Mayo on FoodNetwork was very flavorful and super easy... I threw the five ingredients into my Magic Bullet and BAM! I had Chipotle Mayo... and she was right.

Whether you are a full-blown vegetarian or a newbie experimenting with meatless Mondays this is definitely a burger recipe that you'll want to hang on to. Or better yet, take it and pass it on!

October 30, 2012

Sticky Bun Breakfast Ring


With help from The Grocery Game I was able to make this quick and easy Sticky Bun Breakfast Ring from The Jones Way and All Things Delicious for two dollars! I made two of these this week, one for a group play date and another for an impromptu Frankenstorm brunch. Two dollars and twenty minutes...need I say more?

We don't eat a lot of prepackaged foods so I'm eager to try this recipe using my Aunt Nita's famous Bakewell Cream biscuits.

Hey DC friends, this is a great time to give The Grocery Game a try because livingsocial is offering 52 weeks of Sunday home delivery of the Washington Post for $26 (that's $70 off)!


October 24, 2012

Egg in the Nest


I found this seemingly fanciful presentation idea on pinterest from the Fifteen Spatulas blog. Make this for your next brunch and your guests will think Martha Stewart and her team must have dropped in your kitchen during twilight hours to put these together. Truth is, these are so quick and easy to make that you can whip them up on a weekday morning for an everyday breakfast. Ok, I know some of you are saying "yeah right," but I promise it's true.

My mom taught me a trick for cooking perfect bacon a few years ago that will significantly cut down on your cooking time.

The Best Cooking Method for Bacon


My husband Scott loves his bacon extra crispy. His preference lies ever so delicately between the line of crispy and burnt. And unfortunately I have crossed that line too many times while trying to fry my way to this perfection. Also if you are serving a crowd, frying small batches of bacon can be time consuming... and let's not forget messy.

A few years ago my mom taught me a new trick that not only guarantees perfectly cooked bacon, it is time efficient, and you don't have to worry about bacon grease splattering all of your stove. Rather than frying your bacon, preheat your oven to 350 and bake it on lined baking sheet for 20-30 minutes (depending on how crispy you like it).

For a huge timesaver, partially bake a large batch for 15 minutes, take out of the oven to cool, and then freeze individual servings for future use. When ready to use, bake bacon on a lined cookie sheet for 10-15 minutes at 350. Having partially cooked bacon in the freezer makes it wicked easy for me to whip up my egg in the nest breakfast on a busy weekday morning.

September 29, 2012

Red Velvet Cupcakes (Vegan)


These vegan red velvet cupcakes were my first attempt at vegan cooking, and thanks to a recipe from Sticky Fingers baker Doron Petersan, I am a believer that vegan, gluten and lactose free foods can taste just as delicious.

I don't have any dietary restrictions in my family but I have several friends who do, so I am on a mission to find delicious recipes for every type of tummy. Vegan cooking can be quite expensive but all too often turns out tasting like cardboard, so let GNG be your tastester. I'll never post a recipe just because it fits a dietary constraint... only if it passes the "do I enjoy eating this" test will I pass the golden nugget on to you.

This recipe definitely passed the GNG test so go ahead, preheat your oven, and make a batch of these tasty treats this weekend!


September 26, 2012

Homemade Pita Chips

Pita Chips sprinkled with Parmesan Cheese
I can make a bag of pita chips disappear pretty quickly, how about you? Although Stacy's is my go to brand at the grocery store it turns out that I can make them for 1/3 of the price at home....and in 20 minutes. Paired with this low-fat homemade hummus recipe, you are well on your way to fattening your wallet and slimming your waistline. That's a win win combination!

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September 21, 2012

Homemade Hummus


Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food. Hippocrates (c.460 - 400 BC)

Ever since Morgan was born people have asked how do I have the time... and energy... to cook as much as I do? Well, 1) I love to cook. 2) I started cooking before I entered kindergarden so I'm kinda used to it. 3) Providing my family with home-cooked food (packed with nutrients) rather than processed food (packed with additives) is for me, a top priority, so I find a way to fit it into my day.

For me, it's all about moderation and balance. Do I have days when I just don't feel like cooking? Absolutely! Sometimes even a few days in a row. So we order out or I open a can of ravioli for Morgan. (I like Annie's for prepackaged organic meals and Ella's Kitchen for organic on the go snacks). Do I feel bad? Absolutely not, because I know the majority of the time my family is getting healthy, home cooked meals. AND I know that if I hold myself to unrealtistic standards with no room for rest, I will burn out...and probably not be very fun to be around.

I recently watched a very compelling documentary on Netflix, Forks Over Knives, that argues that eating a plant based and whole foods diet and eliminating all animal products from our diet can reverse several serious health problems such as obsesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Now as a girl who loves her steak well marbled and mediums rare, I'm not ready to hop on the vegetarian bandwagon, but I do believe in the benefits of limiting the amount of meat and processed foods we eat on a daily basis. Let's get started!

Making your own hummus is simple, cheap, and very healthy. Here is a great hummus recipe to get you started and then you can experiment with different seasonings to create a variety of options. Don't forget the homemade pita chips!

September 17, 2012

Carlty Bryer's Wicked Good Coleslaw


This zesty coleslaw is a refreshing side that always accompanies my dad's ribs and potato salad. It is definitely worth taking an extra few minutes to freshly grate the cabbage and carrots, but you can also make it in 5 minutes with a package of coleslaw. For me, the addition of a chopped granny smith apple is a must.

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September 16, 2012

Hawaiian Ahi Poke




Historically Hawaiian fisherman would slice fresh fish into bite sized pieces (poke) and season it with a little sea salt and seaweed. Nowadays in the Hawaiian Islands you can find hundreds of variations of poke everywhere, from the local grocery store to exclusive restaurants like Nick's Fish Market in Maui. (We had an amazing dinner at Nick's on our honeymoon in 2007 and highly recommend putting that on your "to do" list if you go there on vacation. )

This Ahi Poke recipe exemplifies perfection in simplicity. Simple to make and simply melts in your mouth. Once you have made it you can experiment with other seasonings and fish if you like. And, for my fellow foodie adventurers, celebrity chef Sam Choy holds an annual Poke Contest in Keahou, HI. Check out his facebook page for details.

FYI- Here is an interesting article on what is considered sushi grade, you may be surprised. I get my Ahi in the freezer section at our local HMart.

September 4, 2012

The Best Travel Agent

Our Hawaiian Honeymoon - June, 2007
How many times have you clicked on an internet travel deal only to find that the final price is way more than initially advertised or the dates you need aren't available. Maybe you got a great deal, but missed a few fine print details and your trip was ruined, and you had no one to call to help fix the problem. I have a solution... and her name is Lisa Olson from Simmon's Travel, Inc. I was first introduced to Lisa when she booked a Carnival Cruise trip to Nassau, Bahamas for me and three of my girlfriends. It was on the last night of this cruise that I met my husband Scott. I have been relying on Lisa ever since to book all of our travel needs. She is a well-seasoned travel agent that has the knowledge to customize the perfect vacation based on the criteria you give her. Her customer service and attention to detail are impeccable.

Miami Sunrise Carnival Cruise 04
Beantown Bunch Terminal 3 MIA




















She is the person you want on the phone when you find yourself in a jam, and we have tested that out a few times. Like the time we arrived at the airport for our two-week honeymoon in the Hawaiian islands only to find we left our itinerary (with all of our rentals, reservations and inter-island flights) on the plane. One call to Lisa and a new itinerary arrived at our hotel before we did.

Practicing my new signature on the flight to Oahu, HI
Or the time we arrived at the terminal to find that Scott's briefcase full of student final exams (that needed to be graded by midnight) had been left behind in our car and we ended up missing our flight to Miami for an extended Christmas vacation and a family wedding. We were supposed to pick up a rental car and then grab my parents in Fort Lauderdale and then meet up with my mother-in-law. Well everyone was in Miami but us and the car rental agency (who will remain nameless) was lacking any Christmas spirit... even though we were wiling to just pay for the full week and arrive a day late they wanted to charge us over $2,000 for a whole new reservation... bahumbug! Needless to say I was in tears when I called Lisa this time but her voice, level head, and willingness to help were all it took to put me at ease. While Scott and I worked with AirTran (who were awesome) to get on the next flight out, the following day, Lisa called both of our moms to work out logistics so that they could meet up, grab the rental, and pick us up at the Miami airport the following day. To say she goes above and beyond is an understatement, and because of this I recommend her to all of my friends and family and everyone has loved working with her.

New Year's Eve fireworks at The Biltmore Hotel Miami/ Coral Gables, FL
Red Fish Grille Miami/ Coral Gables, FL
You should know that the only thing Lisa charges for is booking airfare, which is $20 per person. Any other trip planning or booking with cruises or hotels is free of charge. Although she gets a commission from those companies, you never have to worry that she is going base her recommendations on those commissions.

FYI - The other thing I would highly recommend is travel insurance. We use Travel Guard, it is relatively cheap and is a lifesaver if you have to use it... which we have. Scott's professional Sony Alpha camera was stolen in Cancun and the insurance company helped cover it. When DC was shut down for a week due to the epic snow storm in 2010 our "babymoon" (a Carnival Cruise to the Bahamas) was cancelled because but we were able to rebook for March because we had bought the insurance.

Babymoon Carnival Cruise to the Bahamas 2010
On stage playing the Newlywed Game

Whether you are booking as an individual, family, or large group give Lisa a call 1-800-762-4116 or e-mail her at simmonstravel.yahoo.com. Let her do all the work so you can simply kick your heels up and enjoy your trip.
On our oceanfront lanai at Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa, Kailua-Kona, HI

September 2, 2012

Carlty Bryer's Wicked Good Potato Salad


Everyone loves my dad's potato salad. All of the fresh vegetables give it a refreshing crunch. I love it with his famous ribs. I love it with Maine red hotdogs. I love it with my mom's baked beans (Aunt Peg's Baked Bean recipe coming soon). Well, I just love it.

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September 1, 2012

The Best Cooking Method for Wings


Crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, and slathered in a zesty sauce, that's how I like my wings. I used to think that I needed to fry them in hot oil to achieve this perfection, but after I tried Alton Brown's method, I knew there was a healthier way to get the same results... or even better.



When we are in the mood for going out for wings, one of our favorite places to hit is Buffalo Wild Wings because of their delicious selection of sauces. My husband first found BW3's in Ohio when he was attending Denison University. When he came to the University of Maryland for graduate school, he was missing his beloved wings so much that he mail-ordered the Spicy Garlic sauce online and contacted the company trying to persuade them that College Park was the perfect location to open a new restaurant. Although it didn't happen right away, it was something like 7 years later (Scott now being a Director and Faculty member at UMD), that sure enough a BW3's opened up in CP. Needless to say, Scott likes to think he is the reason for this happening. Did I mention that one of his classes is Communication and Persuasion? :)

Spicy garlic and mango habanero are two of our "go to" BW3 sauces. You can buy the sauces and dry rubs at the restaurant, or online, and with Alton's method you can make restaurant quality wings at home.


Sorry pup, I think these may be too spicy for your sensitive tummy.




August 30, 2012

Lobster Mac and Cheese


Look no further, this Lobster Mac and Cheese Recipe from Cal Hancock, owner of Hancock Gourmet Lobster Co. in Cundy's Harbor, Maine, is the one you absolutely have to make.

The first time I had Lobster Mac and Cheese was Fall 2007, when my in-laws Stuart and Joanne threw a cocktail party to celebrate our wedding with family friends who couldn't make it to Ogunquit, Maine for the ceremony. We had a lobster bake at our wedding reception so it naturally tied the events together when the caterers served this savory dish as one of the several appetizers at their party. Everyone raved about the lobster mac, a combination that seemed relatively unheard of at the time...at least we had never heard of it, but one bite and we were all hooked.

Last week while vacationing in Virginia Beach we had phenomenal dinner with our friends Chris and Trista at HK on the Bay. I had ordered a Tri Tip Chimichurri Sirloin with a side of Lobster Mac and Cheese, both were cooked to perfection. I decided that when I got home, I was going to try and make this mac and cheese delicasy.

I started perusing the web for "the best" lobster mac and cheese recipes and the stand-out was Cal Hancock's. Obviously my choice to try was heavily influenced by the fact that she had won a throw down with Bobby Flay. Scott took one bite and said, "superb!"

Being from New England, I'm accustomed to running into the local grocery store and selecting fresh lobster from the tank, and even having it steamed right then and there if I'm in a hurry. Unfortunately, it's not so easy to do in Maryland. While in Giant, I went with a package of frozen lobster from Cozy Harbor Co., a company from Portland, Maine.

I used Cal's recipe to make a seafood mac and cheese. Instead of using only lobster, I added one cup of bay scallops and one cup of shrimp. Again, you would never know the seafood was previously frozen, everything came out extremely tender, and it substantially cut down on prep time due to the lobster and shrimp being pre-cooked.

A scrumptious crust made with panko crumbs, lemon zest, butter, and fresh herbs, and parmesan delicately tops this dish (though it would be just as delicious without it if you'd prefer). This is a very rich mac and cheese that can be served as a main dish or makes a very impressive side.




August 28, 2012

Taste Unlimited - Virginia Beach

Thursday Morning: Picked up Scott from UMD and headed to Virginia Beach for a family vacation with the Imrichs. Now all of you with small children know how easy it is to leave in the morning without having breakfast. Well, all I had was a cup of coffee, but when I had the option of stopping half way and filling up on fast food or waiting it out and getting the ultimate satisfaction of wolfing down a sandwich from the Taste Unlimited, this mommy opted for the latter and grabbed another cup of coffee. And boy was the wait worth it!

Chicken Curry Sandwich, Route 11 Dill Pickle Chips, Fruit Salad, Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA


Sunday Afternoon: As the saying goes, betcha can't eat just one. After spending the morning playing with Morgan on the beach while the bigger boys took the kayak out crabbing, I was ready for another round of Taste delectables. What are in the bags? A Northender, Roastbeef with Provolone, Route 11 Chesapeake Crab and Deep River Rosemary and Olive Oil Chips, Coke, Sprite, and an Orangina. Those of you that know and love me may be wondering if all that food was just for me... but I shared with the rest of the gang.



Monday Morning: I stopped by one more time to take a couple of indoor shots of this "golden nugget" delicatessen. They have several house spreads (we love the horseradish cheddar).


They also have an incredible selection of several choices of chips, crackers, and refreshments.


And if you are really in a hurry they have plenty ready to "Grab and Go."


There are locations throughout Virginia, and if you are near one this is a stop you'll be glad you made.  FYI: The Oceanfront location has "Dune Delivery," click here for details.

What is your favorite local foodie spot?  Post it as a comment below!

August 27, 2012

Fricase de Pollo



Warning: This dish is addicting. My father-in-law Ernesto, taught me how to make it in October, and I have made it several times since. A Cuban comfort food that freezes very well. It is often accompanied by white rice, tostones or maduros.

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August 26, 2012

Creamy Spinach and Artichoke Dip



























Who doesn't love hot and bubbly spinach and artichoke dip? It has to be one of the most popular appetizers ordered at restaurants. Well, you no longer have to go out, you can make it at home.
My recipe is slightly adapted from this highly rated dip on Allrecipes. Grab your favorite tortilla chips and dig in!

Having beautiful and unique bakeware that can go straight from your oven to table is great not only for presentation but also for an easy cleanup. While on vacation in the Florida Keys, my parents picked up a few pieces of Tom Chamberlain pottery for us as wedding presents. I have loved using the brie baking dish for my crab dip, but I was just on the site recently and discovered I need to pick up one of these!

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