Friday, October 17, 2014

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are such a fun added bonus to the pumpkin carving experience! They're a great blank canvas for sweet or savory seasonings, and I thought I'd go with a little bit of both for this recipe. It's autumn overload in the best way - Pumpkin Spiced Pumpkin Seeds! Sweet and spicy Pumpkin Pie Spice mixes with salt and sugar for a perfectly festive fall snack.  

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds with Pumpkin Pie Spice
Makes 1 cup
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes

1 cup pumpkin seeds
1 tsp white sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp vegetable oil

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Clean pumpkin seeds in a colander under running water. Remove any pumpkin membrane.
3. Pat seeds dry with a paper towel.
4. Mix all ingredients together.
5. Spread pumpkin seeds in a single layer on a cookie sheet.

6. Bake for 15 – 17 minutes. All ovens are different, so watch the seeds carefully at the end of the cook time. 

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 2. Clean the fresh pumpkin seeds. It can be a messy job getting those seeds out! They're a wonderful added bonus to pumpkin carving though, a tasty roasted autumnal snack.

2. continued - Place the seeds an a colander under running water and rinse rinse rinse.

 2. continued - The goal is to get rid of all of the orange membrane from the pumpkin. Remove any orange pieces you see.

2. continued - Nice and clean!

3. Place the seeds in a relatively flat pile on a paper towel and pat dry.

3. continued - Make a little paper towel-pumpkin seed sandwich and pat off as much moisture as you can. The seeds will roast better if they are dry!

4. Mix all ingredients together.

5. Spread the pumpkin seeds out as evenly as possible on a baking sheet. I almost always line my baking sheets with aluminum foil (regardless of what I'm cooking) for easy clean-up! I didn't find it necessary to grease the baking sheet. The oil on the seeds make them release just fine! 6. Bake for 15-17 minutes. Watch the seeds closely towards the end! Every oven is different and the seeds can quickly go from golden brown to burnt.

Pumpkin Pie Spice

I'm such a sucker for pumpkin spice ANYTHING, and I am not ashamed to admit it! Many pumpkin-spiced recipes call for Pumpkin Pie Spice to give the dish a distinctive fall flavor. Pumpkin Pie Spice IS sold in stores, but you probably already have the ingredients needed to make it yourself! Sweet cinnamon and spicy nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and all spice make up the warm, intoxicating autumnal combination. 

This spice mixture crops up in so many fall recipes that you'll find plenty of uses for it! My Roasted Pumpkin Seeds are pumpkin-pie-spiced with a hint of sugar and salt for a sweet and savory flavor. I've also been mixing just a teensy bit of Pumpkin Pie Spice in my morning coffee, so with each sip I get a whiff of fall which perks me up almost as much as the caffeine! I get truly giddy this time of year with the holidays rolling around. I just can't help myself. I'll have to find the self control to not add this spice mixture to everything in the coming months!

Pumpkin Pie Spice
Makes 5 Tablespoons

1/4 cup ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground all spice

Mix spices together and store in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Monday, September 1, 2014

SJK Travels - Australia

I've just returned from down under and I had the most amazing trip! I made the loooooong haul (36 hour travel time), and my first stop was Townsville, a small town in North Eastern Australia. Billabong Sanctuary gave me the most giddy moments of the trip - I got to feed kangaroos!!! See my surprised-face above. AND I GOT TO HOLD A KOALA!

The little koala! Oooooh too much cuteness! I have to say - he clawed onto me for dear life and I had a few scratches to show for it, but it was worth it :)

And how about the scenery? The mountains near the beaches made for a totally different beach experience than I'm used to. I'm from Florida so I've seen some gorgeous coastline, but this - this was absolutely breathtaking. 

I picked up some Vegemite in Townsville and gave it a taste once I got home. It's really not half bad! I met a few Australians who gave me instructions on how to eat Vegemite:

How to eat Vegemite
1. Toast a slice of bread
2. Spread butter on the bread
3. Spread a THIN layer of Vegemite over the butter
4. Chow down

Seriously though, I kinda liked it! It's very savory and salty. I got a very strong soy sauce type flavor from it! My colleague who tried it with me said it tasted like strong, sharp cheese to him. I didn't get the cheesy notes, but it's definitely intense. Topped with some caramelized onions and a slice of tomato, Vegemite toast would be delish!

After Townsville I was off to Melbourne for a few days! Melbourne is actually the biggest city I've ever visited. I'm headed to New York City in October, and this was a nice primer! I BARELY scratched the surface of restaurants and attractions in Melbourne, but I crammed a good bit in during the few days I was there!

My favorite part of Melbourne was the little side streets lined with small shops and restaurants. These little streets were every foodie/shopper's paradise! With such a wide variety of specialty stores and local restaurants, it was difficult to tear myself away when it was time for work! Most stores and restaurants had open store fronts, which was something I didn't expect considering the weather! It was rainy and in the 50s and 40s while I was there, yet store fronts stayed wide open! I did like the open, artsy feel the open fronts gave everything though, even if I was a little cold while I shopped :)

I imagine this is true with many big cities, but Melbourne restaurants spanned a wide range of ethnic backgrounds. Naturally there are quite a few British restaurants, and there is definitely strong Asian influence in the cuisine, but I also saw a fair amount of Mediterranean restaurants! Getting a feel for Australian food was kind of a challenge, but maybe that's saying something - Melbourne definitely seemed like a melting pot. A few general things I noticed though, were lots of meat, lots of pumpkin, and lots of scones!

I ate dinner at Il Tempo, a small Italian restaurant on Degraves Street.  My dinner (pictured above) was Orecchiette Lamb Ragu with slow cooked lamb shoulder and peas *googly*eyes*. The lamb was tender and ultra savory and the peas brought a touch of sweet contrast. And personally I believe the most pasta, the better, so I was on board with the orecchiette ;) Italian comfort food at its finest.

The next morning I had a proper English breakfast at Hopetoun Tea Room! I love me some American breakfast with all the rich classics, do NOT get me wrong, but sometimes I get a hankering for fancy breakfast. I'm talking tea cups, scones with triple berry jam and double cream, and salmon with poached eggs, salmon roe, and crushed avocado over sourdough bread as pictured above. Unfortunately, I can't get breakfast like this in my home town. It's probably something that only exists in big cities. But between this breakfast and my favorite breakfast of all time in Vienna, my heart will long for fancy breakfasts for quite some time.

After breakfast it was off to Queen Victoria Market! With both indoor and outdoor shops, produce stands, and covered tables with clothing and other goods, it was kind of a combination of a farmer's market and flea market. And it was enormous! I found quite a few souvenirs ;) I picked up a St. Kilda footy scarf for myself (see below), locally roasted coffee beans for my parents, local wine for Paul, and breakfast for the next few days for myself. Again, it's probably a good thing that my shopping is strictly limited to what I can fit in my suitcase on the way home!

One of the highlights of my trip was an Australian Football League game at Etihad Stadium! As a huge American football fan (which Australians call "gridiron"), I HAD to see what Australian footy was all about. One of my Australian colleagues is a St. Kilda Saints fan, so I adopted St. Kilda as my footy team :) Scarf in tow, I attempted to understand the footy match, with admittedly little success. It's a rough, fast paced, high scoring, pad-less and helmet-less combination of American football, rugby, soccer, and basketball. They bounce the dang ball! It was so strange to watch, but FUN and intense.

The only drawback to my trip to Melbourne was the weather. My trip to Australia was 10 days long, so I of course checked the weather as I packed, but 10 day forecasts are only so reliable. Unfortunately it ended up being about 10 degrees colder in Melbourne than it was supposed to be, and I simply did not pack the proper clothing :( With the temperatures in the 40s and 50s and intermittent rain, I was shivering most of the trip! One of the best dinners I ate was a warm bowl of Chicken Teriyaki Ramen from Yuzu. The chicken was super tender, and the warm broth with ramen and veggies were exactly what I needed!

Unfortunately even with the above bowl of goodness I couldn't fend of my impending cold, and I spent the long journey home and the following week with a mean cold AND jet lag. Talk about the perfect storm! Eastward travel definitely causes worse jet lag than Westward travel, and the cold and the jet lag both made it hard to sleep, which made both things worse! Ugh.

If it wasn't for the cold, I really think I could have kicked the jet lag sooner! I've done surprisingly well with jet lag. I was completely adjusted to my destination time after the first night of sleep with all of my other long haul trips. I think the key is sleep deprivation (which isn't hard for me on planes). Keeping myself awake at all costs until my destination's proper night time worked for me in all cases besides the Eastward trip across the Pacific.

What are your travel essentials and tips?
Perhaps I'll do a post on some of the tips and tricks I've learned in my recent travels!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

SJK Travels - Asheville, Charlotte, & Savannah

I am SO thankful to have the opportunity to travel for my job, and my most recent work trip (plus taking the scenic route home) brought me to some lovely Southern cities! Our first stop was Asheville, North Carolina, followed by Charlotte, North Carolina to visit our good friends Dan and Laura, and we stopped in Savannah, Georgia for 24 hours on the way home. It was a whirlwind week full good eats like of peach-flavored alcoholic beverages, pimento cheese, and homemade biscuits (YUM).

This was my very first trip to Asheville! It was everything I hoped and heard it would be - an adorable Southern city with a youthful, earthy twist. And this makes for an amazing culinary experience! I ate many a classic Southern dish remixed in a healthy and/or extremely fresh farm-to-table way.

My first dinner was bison meatloaf with mashed potatoes and mushroom sage gravy + RJ Rockers Son of a Peach beer (and peanut butter pie for dessert!) from Pack's Tavern. This peach beer - oh my god. I'm pretty sure I gushed over this beer to the point of annoyance. The peach fragrance and taste was so strong (in a good way) BUT it wasn't overly sweet! Some fruity beers basically taste like fruit juice, but not this beer. The fruit flavor is very apparent without overtaking the beer with sweetness. Love it.

Asheville had some of the best breakfast spots I've had the pleasure of dining at. Two thumbs up for strawberry sunflower seed pancakes from Early Girl Eatery. Tupelo Honey Cafe's biscuits are tied for first (with Loveless Cafe in Nashville) on my list of best biscuits. And Green Sage Cafe made a meatless AND hearty breakfast consisting of a biscuit topped with crimini mushroom gravy, sauteed kale, sweet potato home fries, and scrambled eggs with parsley. I was QUITE pleased with the breakfasts Asheville had to offer!

Next stop was Charlotte, North Carolina to visit our dear friends Dan and Laura! We had mind-blowing kronuts at Fourth Ward Bread Co., which are a combination of croissants and donuts *googly*eyes*.

I fell in love with all of the TREES in the otherwise sleek and modern downtown! Every street felt like a park entrance. We ate a pretty epic brunch at The Asbury with modern, sophisticated twists on classic Southern dishes. Above is the guinea hen and waffles with collard greens and chorizo frittata with arugula, chevre, red pepper relish, and cilantro crema.

The final stop on our Southern tour was Savannah, Georgia! We loved walking around the City Market and did a hop-on-hop-off trolley tour to see the sights. 

My favorite Savannah culinary experience was the To-Go (whaaaaaat?! love it) Georgia Peach Sangria from Cafe at City Market! It's sweet and so refreshing. I made my own version when I got home! Paul and I spent a weekend sippin' on a batch of my Peach and Raspberry Sangria. Summery perfection.

A recurring menu item on this trip through the South was pimento cheese, and I wasn't mad about it. My favorite take on pimento cheese was the pimento cheese press from The District Cafe and Eatery. Roasted chicken, bacon, avocado, and house-made pimento cheese pressed in ciabatta - done and done. We cooled off a little right next door at Leopold's Ice Cream! I tell ya, beating the heat in Savannah was a challenge. I would definitely recommend visiting Savannah during a cool(er) time of the year, but overall, I loved it.

Stay tuned for more #SJKTravels adventures! I'm off to Australia in a few days EEEEEEEK!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Pineapple Cilantro Lime Marinade

Happy summertime, friends! Paul and I absolutely love firing up the grill in the summer. We both have a mild grilled-pineapple addiction, so oftentimes we throw together some shish kabobs with pineapple, bell peppers, onions, and either steak or chicken, make some rice, and boom! Dinner is done. I got to daydreaming about a marinade that would incorporate our love for pineapple and be perfect for grilling, and this pineapple cilantro lime marinade is what happened!

The smell of charcoal makes me so happy! Is that weird? Our new townhouse has a nice big back porch, so I'm excited to buy a patio set one of these days and throw a cookout! Kabobs are definitely crowd pleasers. You can get creative with different meat, fruit, and veggie combos with different marinades!

This marinade is so zesty and summery! The pineapple flavor is strong (in the best way) and the lime juice balances the sweetness nicely. I'm a sucker for cilantro, and I think it's the perfect herb in combination with the pineapple and lime. Last but not least, a little cumin and onion powder a bring some depth and a savory smokiness to the marinade. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do!

Featured in La Petite Fashionista Magazine!

Pineapple Cilantro Lime Marinade
Marinade for 1 lb of meat
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Marinating Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1 lime (for zest and juice)
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp black pepper

1. Rinse and chop cilantro.
2. Zest the lime.
3. Juice the lime and whisk all ingredients together.
4. Mix meat and marinade together.
5. Cover meat and marinade (or seal in a zip top bag) and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
6. Cook as you please! Grilling with pineapple, bell pepper, and onion is recommended.

1. Rinse and chop the cilantro.

2. Zest the lime.

3. Juice the lime and mix all of the ingredients together! So easy.

4. & 5. Mix the meat and the marinade together, cover, and marinate in the refrigerator for an hour. Putting everything in a zip lock bag in the fridge works too! Here I chopped up chicken breasts in large chunks because I happen to be making shish kabobs, but you could marinate whole pieces of chicken as well! This marinade would be fantastic with steak, fish, or pork tenderloin! 

6. Cook the meat however you like! I love this marinade in shish-kabob form. I'm a sucker for grilled pineapple! I like to chop onion, bell pepper, and pineapple into large chunks and skewer them up with the chicken and grill! Here are the details of how I chop the accompaniments - I chop the top off of the bell pepper.

6. Continued:  Cut the fleshy part of the bell pepper away from the center. Cut as much of the white ribs off as possible (I hadn't trimmed the ribs yet in this picture).

6. Continued: Cut the outsides of the pepper into 1.5-2 inch pieces.

6. Continued: For the onion. Slice the scrunched up ends off of the onion.

6. Continued: Place the flat side of the onion down on the cutting board and cut the onion in half from the top.

6. Continued: Peel the onion apart and cut into 1.5-2 inch chunks. I like to peel the onion 2 layers at a time. I usually skewer two onion pieced together. I feel like they grill better and don't burn as quickly when they are packed together a little thicker.

6. Continued: Chop the pineapple in big chunks!

Slide the chicken, pepper, onion, and pineapple onto skewers repeating the pattern until all of the pieces are skewered! I way prefer metal skewers over wooden skewers - you don't have to deal with splintering wood! Grill the skewers up and enjoy!

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