thursday things – how to up your watermelon game and the best things i ate in july

Another Thursday has arrived, my friends, and we must embrace it before it goes again!

Hopefully you were able to indulge in National Cheesecake Day. If you don’t have time to make your own, get to the Cheesecake Factory stat! They have half price off their cheesecake slices today (the catch – it’s “dine-in only”) and their lemon meringue cheesecake looks crazy fun.

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Just look at it!

Meanwhile, here’s how I’ve spent the last week…

Part of the week was spent covered in dust. Because we live in the desert.

Why would someone want to live in the desert? You got me there, I haven’t the foggiest idea who the first person was who got to Phoenix and said, “Hey! Let’s build a big city here so everyone can be hot and miserable and covered in dust! Sounds great!”

I spent way too much time laughing way too hard at this video of goats. Goats are like the new cats of the internet. You heard it here first, people.

Chef Thomas Keller was on NPR’s ‘Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me‘ last weekend.

Apparently, Americans have stopped buying cereal, among other things.I can only assume that’s because they haven’t heard of this stuff yet (Which, though delicious, just tastes a lot like peanut butter crunch. So if you can’t find it, don’t fret, just pick up some PB Crunch and be on your way!):

jif cereal

Don’t worry, cereal industry, I’m here for you. I will fall for all your fad cereal tricks. Don’t worry <3.

The age-old question of – “Can you cook a steak with lava?” was answered…

Oh, you never wondered about that? Well, now you know.

I learned that cutting watermelons is way easier than I’ve been making it look all these years… I can’t wait to completely destroy a watermelon when I attempt to do this one myself.

I’ve found yet another useless item that I need to aid me in dipping all my Oreos… My favorite part is that it will only work for Oreos (and their knock-off wanna be counterparts) making it a truly and completely inexcusable purchase.

oreo dipper

South Korean activists are sharing the love with their northern neighbors by sending them airborne chocopies.

I’ve decided to start calling donuts “sugar bagels” and gloves are henceforth known as “finger pants.” Thank you.

Oh, and this evil genius made a sugar bagel pie! I can feel my adult onset diabetes kicking in just looking at it…

donut pie

And China is trying to reignite its people’s passion for peaches. With sexy undergarments.

Best Things I Ate in July 

With the end of the Whole 30 and my ability to enjoy real food again and a trip to San Deigo – What were the best things I ate this month?

For starters, this creamy burrata from Grassroots Kitchen in Phoenix, AZ.  Served with dressed arugula, spicy tomato jam, and toasted (but not too toasted) ciabatta this stuff is like the nectar of the gods, people!  Other items on the menu that tantalized my taste buds included their brisket sliders and their baby back ribs, which were beyond tender and oh-so-delicious.

burrata

This panzanella salad with toasted country bread, heirloom tomato, aged salami, feta, banana peppers, caper berries, red onion, balsamic vinaigrette from Craft & Commerce in San Diego, CA… which had me practically licking the plate clean.

craft and commerce

This enormous apple fritter (which is also available with bacon!) from Donut Bar in San Diego, CA.

fritter

These Dang chips (haha- THEY’RE REALLY CALLED “DANG”) But seriously, they’re crunchy, sweet, and salty all rolled into one delightful snack.

DANG CHIPS

 

thursday things – wee eats san diego (again)

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HI HI HI HI HI HI HI!

Those of you who follow on Instagram know by now that FH and I took a quick trip to San Diego last week.  We rented a place on airbnb, which was a perfectly-situated adorable apartment… slightly on the major flight path of the airport (the above picture was taken standing outside the apartment). Every day I waited for the loud crashing sound of the airplane not quite clearing one of the buildings…

While our primary goal was to take care of wedding-planning things, we managed to accomplish my secondary goal of eating our faces off as well.

Seriously. So much eating.

If you’ve never been to San Diego I insist that you go – it’s basically in the 70s all year long with the only downside being the humidity which hovers around 1,000,000% at any given time. But the city is absolutely gorgeous and full of delicious foodstuffs, like these:

Cucina Urbana

We ate here the last time we visited the San Diego area, but this time we “coincidentally” ended up staying just a few short blocks away… so we ate here a few times on this trip. On top of the delicious food, I love the ambiance of this restaurant. I did learn, however, that you must make reservations. They are booked. Always. All the time. However, if you like to live on the edge (like us) and not make reservations for anywhere, you can grab a seat at the bar if one is open and still enjoy everything the menu has to offer along with friendly chit-chat from the bartenders.

Below you will see the formaggi + salumi (a sort of build-your-own charceuterie board) which comes with a pear compote, several mustards, red pepper, and some of the best honey I’ve ever tasted. Amazing. Below that is their ricotta gnudi with arrabiatta sauce which, although it only comes with five little gnudis (to be fair, it’s a “side” item) is actually rather filling. They are light, pillowy ricotta dumplings swimming in a bright and flavorful tomato sauce. Lastly, their giant meatball (also a “side” item, I was clearly feeling snacky this day). I’m a bit of a meatball snob but this meatball is pretty solid. Their pizzas are all amazing as well.

 cucina urbana antipasti gnudi meatball

Craft & Commerce

FH and I stopped in for lunch after walking 23942384 miles around the city and shared their giant panzanella salad and some french fries. Their panzanella isn’t as bread-centric as most, which I consider a plus, however I’m not sure what percentage of a salad is supposed to be bread in order for it to be officially considered a “panzanella.”

This particular salad comes topped with all of my favorite things, including pickled red onions, finely sliced salami, and feta cheese. My tummy is rumbling just thinking about it…

craft and commerce

Fun fact – even though everyone stares at me like a crazy person when I say it, “panzanella” is actually pronounced “pan-za-nell-uh’ and NOT ‘pan-za-nay-uh’. Look it up, I promise. No go forth with this knowledge and do with it what you will.

Pappalecco

pappalecco

FH and I passed by this place on our way to breakfast at Hash House and the aroma nearly took us off our course. We stopped in on the way back to our car and couldn’t resist ordering a couple lattes, a prosciutto sandwich, and an almond croissant to go.

This place has what very well may be the best latte I have ever put in my mouth. Hands down. Their almond croissant was a standard croissant split and filled with sweet almond paste and topped with sliced, sugared almonds. It was to DIE for, and their prosciutto sandwich is lightly-grilled, just enough to warm the insides, and one bite will transport you straight to Italy.

I mean, I’ve never been to Italy, but I’m assuming that’s where it was taking me…

Hash House

Hash House is pretty well-known and I’ve been to their Vegas location before but didn’t realize they had locations elsewhere in the country. The food is good but I think they are more known for their over-the-top portions. These pictures really do the food no justice because these plates are at least 12-inches in diameter… at least.

hash house french toast

FH got the french toast which is dipped in banana cinnamon cream with pecan maple syrup. It comes topped with pecans, strawberries, and roasted bananas. I got the strawberry frosted flake pancakes which are pancakes filled with, you guessed it, strawberries and Frosted Flakes. Because how many times have you been eating your pancakes and wondering why they weren’t filled with Frosted Flakes?

hash house pancake

I’m pretty sure any one menu item here could feed at least four people… just saying.  But of course you’ll never share them because there are so many options that you will want to try…

Extraordinary Desserts

This was on our list to stop at as part of our “wedding cake” investigation. I had planned to try a few flavors of cake but since we ended up here at 10:00 AM on a Sunday morning, my body wasn’t as prepared as I’d have liked it to be. We settled on trying a flavor similar to what we were considering for the wedding and grabbed a lemonade too.

We tried the Ivoire Royale which has layers of vanilla bean-soaked pound cake, whipped white chocolate ganache, fresh berries, and whipped cream.

extraordinary desserts ivoire royale

We did not feel the need to stop at any other cake shops while on our trip.

Panera

Of course we had to go to Panera.

I know that it’s a chain but whenever we leave Arizona we look for Panera. This was an obligatory stop. They did finally build a Panera here in town but a> it’s out of the way of anywhere I go, b> it’s a super tiny downtown location with a limited menu, and c> THEY DON’T SERVE BAGUETTES!!!  WTF IS THAT ABOUT, PANERA!?

panera

Anyway, it was too hot for soup but I got their strawberry poppyseed salad with a flatbread sandwich… AND A MOTHER-EFFING BAGUETTE. BECAUSE I COULD. I think I’m just super not into the bread generally used for “flatbread” anything (lavash and pita are good, anything else… no thanks) but I approved of the salad, and of course of the baguette.

Pinkberry

pinkberry

Oh Pinkberry, God of the Frozen Yogurt. Another thing we don’t have in AZ (not in Phoenix at least… how? Not sure.) I will seriously eat anything if you put that luxe chocolate topping on it – “milk chocolate crunch” is what they call it. It’s like a super creamy chocolate sauce filled with crunchy rice crisps(? maybe?)…. I’m not completely sure what is in it really. Probably crack, though, because that sh*t is addictive. I’m getting the shakes just thinking about it…

Donut Bar

donut bar

Donut Bar was the main thing on my radar pre-San-Diego. It was on my list last time but we didn’t make it to the shop because we were staying way far north up in La Jolla. I did not allow us to make the same mistake again.

Donut Bar is famous for its unique and creative donut flavors, and for being crazy busy, and for selling out of everything super early. I’m not sure if Tuesday mornings just aren’t their thing, if the rain scared everyone away, or if sweet baby Jesus was just smiling down on us from above because we saved this as our last stop and hit it first thing Tuesday morning before we left town. We mucked up the parking a bit (I saw a valet stand and urged FH to pull up to it because I forgot any of my meter change and, hello, VALET!) and it turns out if we had driven like five more feet towards our beloved donut shop we would have seen tons of free street parking. Oops.

The Strawberry Split donut was a must, with fresh berries and whipped cream sandwiched between a light and fluffy cinnamon-sugar donut. This thing is like heaven. It’s also huge, actually, all of their donuts are huge. Their yeasted donuts are probably a solid 5 or 6 inches in diameter. FH and I made a team effort to take this one down and still didn’t make it all the way through.

donut bar strawberryAnd, because sometimes you can’t choose just one… or two…. or six donuts to sample. We went for the bakers dozen, nevermind that there were only two of us.

Decisions are hard but “one of each” is easy. Unfortunately they didn’t have their “Cro-Bar” cronut, so I have yet to see what that hype is about…

donuts

In case you were wondering what $40 of donuts looks like… now you know.  bottom-left is the best apple fritter of your life, you already met the strawberry split, a super delicious salted caramel which is a raised donut topped with salted caramel glaze and a sprinkle of sea salt, and a boston cream pie donut.

Up top we have maple bacon – which is a raised donut topped with a maple glaze and, well, bacon (duh). I thought it would have a filling for some reason but it didn’t, the flavor of that donut was great though – obviously – since maple and bacon were made for each other.

None of the doughs are too sweet, which makes it much easier to consume their sugar-laden toppings.

The music note one is the “Elvis” which has banana cream filling and peanut butter glaze, the criss-cross one is a mud pie which is topped with oreo crumbs, peanut butter, and glaze. Then you see red velvet and cookie and cream cake donuts… the giant pistachio-lemon donut (which tasted mostly just like a lemon-glazed donut with a bit of pistachios sprinkled on top), then going back up the right side is a blueberry meyer lemon which was a blueberry cake donut (not much blueberry flavor going on) with a lemon glaze, an old-fashioned donut topped with a delicious vanilla bean glaze, and their famous creme brulee donut. The creme brulee is filled with vanilla cream, and topped with crunchy bruleed sugar. I thought this one would be my favorite but I found the filling to be too sweet and tasted almost just like powdered sugar to me. /Shrug.

Strawberry split was definitely my favorite, the apple fritter and old fashioned were close behind.

Because these came home with us, I had to make sure to take the utmost care on the trip home to ensure their safety. They had a buffer zone around them to ensure they wouldn’t be squished and since they were my babies I made sure to buckle them in nice and snug.

seatbelt

FH definitely judged me.

thursday things – how to shuck corn in the microwave, how to remove grease stains, and a hedgehog’s birthday party

pusheen ice cream

Happy Thursday~ It is extra happy for me because I’M GOING ON VACATION THIS WEEKEND!!!

We are fleeing the oppressive 100+ degree heat and suffocating 50% humidity of Phoenix’s monsoon season for the cool 70 degrees and ocean breeze of San Diego. Can’t wait.

Meanwhile, The internet…

Earned over $40k for this guy to make potato salad

Taught me how to shuck corn in the microwave

Explained why some of you hate cilantro (with science!)

Reminded me of my love for goats

TheKitchn taught me how to remove those pesky grease stains (since I refuse to wear an apron for some reason).

Food52 helps me learn how to pit stone fruit so that I can stop buying it pre-sliced (aren’t they nice?)

And remember that hamster with the burrito? Well, they just celebrated his hedgehog friend’s birthday.

 

You’re welcome.

 

 

thursday things – life after whole30, new kitchen gadgets, and a 4th of july recipe round-up

I DID IT! I SURVIVED THE WHOLE 30!

From now on my desserts will look like these “croNOTS” - made from donut-shaped apple slices and healthy toppings like almond butter and yogurt!

Just kidding.

W30 was fun, and I learned some things about myself and the food I eat, but I’m happy to be able to say ‘yes’ again to things like quinoa, and rice, and peanut butter, and cake.

And these:

reeses oreo pkg

Much to everyone’s surprise (especially my own) I haven’t actually had either chocolate OR peanut butter since I finished the diet, which means I’ve officially achieved a lifetime record of going over one month without either of them!

I haven’t cracked these beauties open yet because I’m afraid that, after all that healthy crap I’ve been eating, they will just taste like pure sugar and chemicals… So I’ve decided to give my taste-buds a week or two to adjust to the real world before I break them open.

After that, MURDER.  May god have mercy on their delicious cookie souls.

Fruit season is upon us and since we’ve been demolishing fruit like its nobody’s business (FH has a serious rainier cherry addiction, if they didn’t have such a short season I may be more concerned). We decided to enhance the speed at which we can inhale our sweet treats by making two new friends: Professor Hullsworth and his less distinguished counterpart Pitts (he likes to pit cherries).

gadgets

I’m more of a minimalist really so for the past few years I’ve been convincing myself that these were unnecessary kitchen items and a waste of money. After about a week of owning them I am happy to say that they may actually be my two favorite kitchen gadgets. Maybe I really DO need that apple-corer after all…

Meanwhile on the internet…

This guy totally wasted his free pet owl by throwing it outside.

Wit and Vinegar made the donuts of my dreams

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Eater began its own cookbook review column ….

We uncovered the truth about cookie butter

Cookie-Butter-01-Pickled

TheKitchn introduced us to the future of food packaging …

Japan again shows us that they are superior in every way by creating a penguin GPS app

And my froyo dreams are finally coming true with the creation of an automatic froyo dispenser (with an awesome f*cking name – THE FROBOT!). At the low, low price of 30K I don’t know how I can NOT invest in one, really…

Finally, with our country’s day of independence just around the corner, who would I be to rob you of a RECIPE ROUNDUP?

4th of July Recipe Round-up

Appetizers

Halloumi cheese bites from A Periodic Table (via Feast Magazine)

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These itty bitty cute caprese bites (add more bits of tomato and cheese and turn them into caprese skewers!)

Pass the Sushi‘s Huli-Huli bacon chicken bites

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Herbed cream-cheese avocado canapes from Natasha’s Kitchen

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Mains

Emma Magazine’s BBQ Meatball Sandwiches with Peach Slaw

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SkinnyTaste’s BBQ shrimp skewers

Quick-Grilled-BBQ-Shrimp-Recipe

 Grilled garlic-basil chicken breasts from yours truly

Slow cooker pulled pork from Kitchen Mason 

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Pioneer Woman’s oven-barbecued chicken

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Or give these 5-chili turkey burgers a try

Sides

Movita Beacoup‘s potato salad

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Herbed quinoa garden salad from Pinch of Yum

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Foolproof Living’s watermelon, avocado, and mint salad with feta

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Fresh sweet corn salad from Our Best Bites

Fresh-Corn-Salad-from-Our-Best-Bites

Desserts

How about a super easy s’mores icebox cake?

Or, if you’re feeling extra motivated, you can make this American Flag Cake from Food52

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Or, slightly less taxing, are these roasted berry napoleons from My Baking Addiction

roastedberrynapoleons

How about these delectable peanut butter s’mores bars from Just a Taste?

oven-smores-bar-recipe

Drinks

Bomb Pop Shots from A Beautiful Mess

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These super easy watermelon margaritas from yours truly

watermelon margarita 1330

This refreshing (alcohol-free) strawberry-basil soda from Striped Spatula

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thursday things – mystery doritos, blue tomatoes, and southwestern tabbouleh

It’s Thursday! What you are seeing above is a glorious pineapple-coconut margarita (aka: “Nectar of the Gods”) from Blanco Tacos & Tequila in Arizona. Thursdays are great margarita days, in case you didn’t know. Helps to take the edge off the week and prepare you for the weekend…

I tried all the new Doritos flavors and can confidently recommend that you save your dollars and not buy them. My notes are below – if you have tried them, please feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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Yellow has almost a honey-mustard flavor, but then it has lime. It is like sweet-salty-limey flavor that I am not quite sure what they are going for. The only thing I can think of that is sweet, salty, and limey is a margarita, but it doesn’t taste like a margarita. I did actually think of something else it could be the other night but I already forgot. Maybe they’re just going for “zesty lime” in which case they hit the nail on the head, I guess. If they were going for “Mountain Dew” (which the internet seems to think) then, sorry guys. You missed the target (you are slightly closer to the target if you were aiming for “salty Mountain Dew” lol). Red I would describe as “hot as f**k” with a hint of cheddar. Every flavor I would assume they were going for already exists (buffalo wing? hot sauce? tabasco? but they already have “Tapatio” Doitos so… I dunno…) I mean, it takes a LOT of heat for something to make my mouth uncomfortably hot but this one did the trick. Actually, it wasn’t so much my mouth that suffered but every bite sent the spicy powder into my sinuses which then tried to murder me from the inside. If you are into fiery murder, go for it. These are your chips. Blue is definitely a molé flavor – It’s a bit smokey, a bit spicy, and a bit chocolatey, but somehow the flavors combine and cancel each other out making them almost bland with a hint of lingering spice that builds as you continue eating them.

I also found a new favorite snack. They are crunchy and delicious and I can pretend they are good for me because they are made with lentils. I’ve also tried the wasabi ranch flavor (more wasabi than ranch) and the caesar flavor (not the best) and the “lightly salted” (which were also really good) but the tomato basil is my favorite. They are almost always on sale for super cheap at our grocery store so my curiosity finally got the better of me and I picked up a few.

lentil snaps

In other news…

All you dog people can EAT IT because this cat proves that they are just as effective as dogs are at protecting you

Dominique Ansel is at it again with nutella-filled cronut holes… because that’s necessary.

Trader Joes released their Top 25 Products from 2013 and I’ve purchased woefully few of them. Triple ginger snaps, I’m coming for you this weekend!

So apparently I can stop my search for pineberries and grow my own, along with some indigo tomatoes (did you know those were a thing?)…. if I can just conquer this awful curse of killing every plant I touch…. Seriously, I have the equivalent of a plant graveyard on the side of the house.

Confused about whether to use light or dark brown sugar? Serious Eats to the rescue (as usual) – I usually split the difference and use “Golden Brown” sugar… seems like a good choice, right ?

Arizona’s Restaurant Week is this week so if you’re local be sure to check out your options.

Also, when I made my quinoa tabbouleh the other day I also made a “southwest” version. Because I had cilantro and it sounded like fun. It’s basically the same recipe but swap cilantro for the parsley, swap lime for the lemon, and add some avocado. The “official” recipe is below but I stand by my “adjust to your own preferences” recommendation. The recipe is VERY forgiving.

southwest tabbouleh pin

southwestern tabbouleh

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

    For quinoa
  • 1/2 c quinoa
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • For tabbouleh
  • 1 large or 2 small tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced (or substitute one small shallot for more "pico" flavor)
  • 1 avocado, pitted and chopped
  • 4 cups cilantro, loosely packed
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste

Instructions

    Cook quinoa
  1. Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a saucepan. Add quinoa and cook, stirring, until gently toasted. Add water (I use a 1:1 ratio of quinoa to water) and heat to a boil. Cook according to time stated on package directions. Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.
  2. Make the tabbouleh
  3. Chop tomatoes and avocado to desired size and slice green onions (or shallots); set aside
  4. In a food processor, pulse cilantro leafs until finely-chopped but stop before it reaches a paste. Add a drizzle of olive oil and lime juice (sometimes I'll add my onion and tomato here too, just to chop them up a bit more) and pulse a couple seconds more to distribute.
  5. Transfer cilantro to a large bowl, add tomato, avocado, and green onions/shallot. Toss to combine.
  6. Add desired amount of quinoa, distributing evenly throughout.
  7. Salt and pepper to taste, refrigerate 30 minutes to allow flavors to mingle. Taste again and adjust seasoning as necessary.

Notes

You can adjust the rations of vegetables/herbs/quinoa to your liking. I usually don't use all of the quinoa but if you want to give yours more bulk, feel free!

This makes a great side or filling for taco night!

http://wee-eats.com/2014/05/15/thursday-things-mystery-doritos-blue-tomatoes-and-southwestern-tabbouleh/