The highlight of my weekend in Phoenix was most definitely the Third Annual Arizona Taco Festival. I love nothing more than the combination of tacos, margaritas, outdoor daytime festivals… and the occasional fake mustache!
The event brought together the delicious taco makings of more than 40 local restaurants, bars and food trucks in and around Phoenix. Along with tacos came music, tequila tastings and sombreros a plenty!
This sombrero was won by a very nice man in a pepper eating contest, we found him after the contest and stole his hat… just kidding! We just borrowed it for a pic! The lovely lady modeling the hat is my friend Amy Black.
We started the day with Duck Mole Tacos topped with Guacamole and Jalapeños from El Hefe.
You know that old saying, “save the best for last”, well I think we reversed it because this was my favorite taco of the day!
Although the next taco came in at a close second, it was the lobster taco from Chelsea’s Kitchen.
Big chunks of lobster with avocado, tomato salsa and shredded lettuce = yum!
I’m not going to lie. We didn’t have one taco throughout the day that I didn’t love!
Next, was the shredded beef taco from El Santo topped with fresh tomato salsa, arugula and cheese.
The flavor of the beef was incredible!
Lastly was the chicken taco at La Hacienda.
La Hacienda was all-the-buzz at the festival, with everyone insisting we try their chicken tacos. The tacos were topped with salsa verde, crema and cheese. They definitely lived up to their buzz, La Hacienda brought home “Reserve Grand Champion” in the taco competition for the third year in a row!
Before departing the delicious festival we did what we do best and found a photo booth!
This event is now on the calendar as an annual must attend! See you next year Phoenix!
On the One Year Anniversary of the blog I made the announcement that I would be adding “Chopped Challenge Thursdays” and “Single Sundays” to the site.
While “Chopped Challenge Thursdays” have been going strong, “Single Sundays” have yet to make an appearance on the blog. I blame this on the fact that I cook like an Italian grandma (meals for 6 or more people!) and I’ve been busy, busy, busy!
But never fear, Single Sundays are here!
This week I whipped up a dish that was quick, delicious and easily prepared for one!
Prep Time: 4 minutes Cook Time: 6 minutes
Ingredients (serves 1)
1 salmon burger
2 tbsp buffalo sauce
1 cup romaine lettuce
1/4 sliced red onion
1/2 tomato (chopped)
1 tbsp blue cheese dressing
Place the salmon burger in a small skillet over medium heat and cook for 3-4 minutes.
Flip the burger and brush with half of the buffalo sauce.
Cook for 3-4 minutes then flip again and brush with the remaining buffalo sauce.
Remove from the heat and prepare the salad by combining the lettuce, tomatoes and onion.
Toss with the blue cheese dressing then place the salad mixture on a plate.
Top with the salmon burger and dig in!
This makes for the perfect lunch or dinner for one filled with Omega 3 “happy” fatty acids from the salmon!
Salmon burgers can be found fresh or frozen in most major grocery stores.
My grandma Meme was always smiling, always baking and always had tons of love to give!
I dedicated my 100th post on the blog to Meme by baking her Pink Lemonade Pie. Now I dedicate my 200th post to her!
I loved helping Meme in the kitchen growing up. She taught me lots about baking, including taste testing, you know, for quality control purposes! 😉
I was lucky enough to grow up in a time, place and family that had Meme’s and Papa’s instead of nannies and babysitters. Whenever Mom was working my brother and I would go spend the afternoons after school with my Meme. We were her only two grandchildren and she loved spoiling us. She would always say we weren’t spoiled, we were “well-loved” and I couldn’t agree more!
We were spoiled with loving gestures, such as making two pies so that my brother and I could each have our favorite. Or making pink and chocolate graham cracker cookie sandwiches because I wanted pink and my brother wanted chocolate! And these cookie sandwiches are what I am sharing with you all today.
While it may be one of the simplest recipes I post on the blog, it is also one that is filled with the most memories!
Total Time: 15 minutes
Ingredients (makes 26 cookie sandwiches)
9 cups powdered sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 tbsp cocoa
2-3 drops red food coloring
1 box graham crackers
Start by combining the powdered sugar and milk until no lumps exist. Separate the icing into three bowls. In one bowl add the cocoa and in another add the food coloring.
Next, spread the icing on one half of a graham cracker.
Then sandwich another graham cracker on top.
Repeat until all cookie sandwiches are made. Set to the side and allow the icing to harden so it doesn’t ooze out when you bite in…. or dig in and just let that icing ooze!
Chocolate for my brother.
Put them all together and you have a neapolitan stack of cookie sandwiches!
These brought back so many great childhood memories!
I hosted the dessert course of a Progressive Dinner last weekend and each house had their own signature cocktail. What says signature Whitney and dessert cocktail more than a White Chocolate Wedding Cake Martini. Check out my latest video on how to make your own!
Here’s a little shot of the drink in action at the party!
I asked and you responded, “what generally unhealthy dish would you like to see transformed into something healthy and delicious?”
The response was unanimous, Mac and Cheese. So today I bring you the first ever “Transformation Tuesday” where I turn a generally unhealthy dish into something healthy and yummy. Today I transformed Traditional Mac and Cheese into Spaghetti Squash with White Cheese Sauce.
The result was a delicious, gluten-free, vegetarian dish that packs way less calories, fat, carbs and sodium than any macaroni and cheese dish you will eat at a restaurant!
The Cheesecake Factory Macaroni and Cheese SIDE DISH packs 51 grams of fat, 1309 calories, 768 milligrams of sodium and 92 grams of carbs, and that’s just the side dish to the main course!!
My dinner portion of Spaghetti Squash with White Cheese Sauce comes in at 275 calories, 12 grams of fat, 335 milligrams of sodium and 10 grams of carbs for a 1 cup serving. Even if you double the serving size to 2 cups, you will still save 759 calories and 27 grams of fat!
Just to make the picture even more clear, if you are counting Weight Watcher points, one side of macaroni and cheese at The Cheesecake Factory counts for 25 points, while my dish weighs in at only 4 points!
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 45 minutes
Ingredients (serves 4)
1 large spaghetti squash
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup part-skim mozzarella (shredded)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (shaved)
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup goat cheese
1/4 cup soy milk
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves (to garnish)
Start by cutting the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and brush with the olive oil then sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Place cut side down on a baking sheet and roast in the oven at 400°F for 45 minutes.
Remove from the oven and watch this how-to video on what to do next!
Once all of the spaghetti squash has been added to the sauce, separate into four bowls and top with the fresh basil to serve.
At my girls wine and cheese party a couple of weeks back I stumbled upon my new favorite cheese, Stilton Apricot. I drizzled little bites of this amazing cheese with honey and paired it with chopped dates for the perfect bite!
After that night, I knew I had to do something with this amazing combination of ingredients. The simple thing to do would be to fill the dates with the cheese, wrap them in bacon and drizzle them with honey, very similar to the Bacon Wrapped Dates I prepare on a regular basis. But that was too easy.
I knew I wanted to incorporate bacon into the ingredient list and what goes better with pork than… more pork. That was when I decided to glaze pork chops with honey, then stuff them with the delicious mixture of Stilton Apricot cheese, chopped dates and bacon.
The result was a completely amazing lunch for me and my friend Ruby!
2 pork chops
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp mustard powder
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped dates
4 slices bacon (fried until crisp and chopped)
1/4 cup Stilton apricot cheese
Start by glazing the pork chops. The video below will guide you with step by step instructions.
After 15 minutes in the oven, remove, flip the pork chops and baste with the rest of the honey glaze.
While the pork chops are in the oven, prepare the stuffing mixture in a small bowl by combining the dates, bacon and cheese. I also drizzled an additional tsp of honey into the mix to help bind the ingredients and for a little extra honey flavor!
Once the pork chops have been basted with the honey glaze on both sides and cooked for 15 minutes each remove them from the oven and place on a cutting a board.
Allow to cool enough to handle or use a pair of tongs to hold the pork chop in place while slicing through the center to stuff. Slice the pork chop through the middle while keeping the edges in tact..
Stuff with the bacon, cheese mixture.
Place the pork chops back into the cast iron skillet and into the oven for 5 minutes, or until the cheese is slightly melted.
Remove the pork chops from the skillet. Heat the honey glaze in the bottom of the skillet on the stove top over high heat to reduce.
Once the glaze comes to a boil and reduces by half, brush the mixture on top of the pork chops and serve.
There was extra cheese and bacon mixture leftover, so I put a little on top, there can never be too much cheese and bacon!
These were the most juicy and flavorful pork chops I’ve ever eaten and made for a perfect lunch paired with sautéed kale and fresh lemonade!
As a side for my Teriyaki Pineapple Short Ribs I decided to roast a combination of beets, bell peppers, onions and carrots in a sweet Asian sauce, similar to that of the sauce in which I pressure cooked the short ribs.
The result was a delicious side dish that would go perfectly with any Asian dish.
Ingredients (serves 4)
1 red onion (chopped)
1 green bell pepper (de-seeded and chopped)
1 8 oz package steamed and peeled baby beets (chopped)
2 carrots (peeled and chopped)
4 cloves garlic (sliced)
1 tbsp sesame oil
½ cup soy sauce
½ cup cooking sake
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp sesame seeds
Start by chopping all of the vegetables and garlic, then placing them on a rimmed baking sheet.
Next, whisk together the sesame oil, soy sauce, sake, ginger and honey in a small bowl.
Pour the mixture evenly over the vegetables, then top with sesame seeds.
Place in the oven at 400° for 20 minutes, tossing half way through cooking. Remove from the oven and place into a serving bowl.
I topped mine with chopped green options for a little extra color and flavor. Totally optional!
One goal I have on the blog is to continually diversify the recipes I create with interesting ingredients, unique cooking techniques and experimentation with different cuisines. This week I incorporated a rarely used cooking technique into my dish, pressure cooking.
Up until this week, the soul purpose of my shiny silver pressure cooker was to simply cook chicken. That chicken would then be shredded and placed into a dish that would more-than-likely get smothered in delicious buffalo sauce for one of my favorite dips or pastas.
The game has now changed. Cooking in the pressure cooker is a quick and easy way to get flavorful, melt-in-your-mouth short ribs.
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 lb beef short ribs
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp ground ginger
1/2 cups onions (chopped)
4 garlic cloves (sliced)
1 cup cooking sake
2 cups beef broth
1 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup pineapple chunks
Start by heating the sesame oil in the bottom of the pressure cooker over medium heat. While the oil is heating rub the short ribs with the salt, pepper and ginger.
Once the oil is heated, add the short ribs to the pan and sear lightly, 1-2 minutes on each side.
Next, add the chopped onions and sliced garlic cloves.
Pour the cooking sake on top. Allow to simmer 3-4 minutes, then add the beef broth, soy sauce, honey, brown sugar and pineapple chunks.
Add the lid to the pressure cooker and turn the heat to high. Once it pressures up, turn the heat to low and cook for an additional 15 minutes.
Remove the cooker from the heat and allow to pressure down before removing the lid. Once the lid is off, pour 1 cup of the sauce from the pressure cooker into a skillet over high heat. Allow the sauce to reduce to a glaze.
Remove the short ribs from the pressure cooker and brush with the glaze. Strain the pineapples and onions out of the sauce and place on top.