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!

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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!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Peach & Raspberry Sangria

I drank some lovely peach sangria on my recent trip to Savannah, and I HAD to make some for myself when I got home! It's really the ideal summer beverage. Fruity, refreshing, and easy to drink, Peach & Raspberry Sangria is perfect for porch-sittin' or soaking up some sun at the pool or beach. And the fresh fruit at the bottom of your empty glass is a juicy added bonus! The sweet peaches and tart raspberries combine with a hint of citrus in triple sec to give this sangria a bright, summery flavor.

Peach & Raspberry Sangria
Makes 8 Servings
Total Time: 5 minutes

0.75 L white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
11.2 oz peach nectar
6 oz club soda
3 oz triple sec
2 peaches
6 oz raspberries

1. Slice peaches.
2. Mix all ingredients. Pour over ice and enjoy!

I found peach nectar in the ethnic food section of my grocery store. The rest of the ingredients are very standard! I chose Pinot Grigio rather than a Riesling or Moscato because I didn't want the sangria to be overly sweet. The peach nectar and fresh fruit add a decent amount of sweetness! I think Pinot Grigio ended up striking just the right balance.

Just slice up the peaches and mix everything together! My Georgia peaches from the farmer's market were so soft and sweet and fragrant. Almost too ripe, which is right where you want them.

There's something about drinking sangria that makes me want to kick my feet up and relax. A little summertime day-drinking by the pool or at a cookout and I am one happy girl! And how easy is this recipe?! No blending or muddling or syrup-making. Just slice, mix, and enjoy!

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