Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Summer in the Mitten: Sleeping Bear Dunes

Last week, my sister, brother, Dad, and I headed up to visit Sleeping Bear Dunes (or SBD, as we like to call it).  Sleeping Bear Dunes is a National Park located in the Northern portion of the lower peninsula in Michigan.  Sister and I have been to SBD several times, but my brother had never been and made a special request to visit during his Summer vacation.
  We were happy to oblige.  In 2011, Sleeping Bear Dunes was voted the Most Beautiful Place in America by Good Morning America.  My photos don't do it justice, but hopefully they will give you some idea of how beautiful the area is. 
{ Sleeping Bear Dunes location in Michigan, indicated by the A }
{ a detailed look of the area }
Our first stop was the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.  You can stop at the visitor center in Empire to pick up a guide and pay for your park entrance { $10 per car for all areas of the park } or just head straight to Pierce Stocking and pay at the entrance.

We parked the car at one of the first stops and took a short hike.  The nice thing about SBD is that you can do as much or as little hiking/walking as you like.

 { Sister and Brother are the two small specks on the hill }
 { me with World's Cutest Brother.  He looks thrilled, doesn't he?  What is it with teenage boys and the camera?  he refuses to smile...}
 { Dad & Brother }
Next, we headed to the Lake Michigan overlook stop on the drive - one of the most beautiful and popular spots.  You don't want to miss it!
 { DKU - me, brother, sister }
See the area of darker sand in the photo above?  The dark spots are people climbing back up the dune - this is not recommended!  It can take up to two hours to climb up! It's hard to get a sense of how tall the dune is in he photo, but it's 450 feet high with a very steep incline!
The water is so beautiful up here.  It almost looks like the Caribbean.
After the scenic drive, we drove North to the city of Glen Arbor.  We wandered around the shops, made a stop to the famous Cherry Republic { Don't miss it - love this fun place } and had a snack at Art's Tavern.  We continued North to Pyramid Point for one more hike.

After an uphill, buy easy, hike through the woods, you are rewarded with gorgeous views of Lake Michigan. 

I can't get over the color of the water!

 { DKU selfie }
 { a half smile...victory! }
After Pyramid Point, we made our way to Traverse City, where we spent the night.  The Traverse City area is another beautiful part of Michigan and is a really fun Summer Town.  I posted about a wine tasting trip I took here.
{ One of my Instagram photos of our hotel dock in Traverse City; I used the Waterlogue app to edit into a "watercolor" }
I hope you are having a wonderful Summer!  How is it almost August?  I am not ready for Summer to end!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Weekend Kitchen: Marcella Hazen's Tomato Sauce

This recipe will quite possibly be the easiest and most delicious tomato sauce you will ever make.  And it only has three ingredients.  Intrigued?  I was.  I kept running into this recipe all over the web and finally gave it a try.  Smitten Kitchen loved it, The Amateur Gourmet said every home cook needs to know about this recipe, and Orangette posted about it way back in 2007!

The recipe is from Marcella Hazen.  See original recipe here and learn a little bit about Marcella here.

2 cups tomatoes, with their juices (for example, a 28-ounce can of San Marzano or Italian Style whole peeled tomatoes)
- 5 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
- Salt, to taste
- Parmesan, freshly grated (optional)
- 1 lb of pasta of your choice

1.  Add the tomatoes, their juices, butter, and onion halves to a medium size saucepan.  Add a pinch or two of salt.  Break up the tomatoes with a knife.

2.  Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with a spoon. Add salt as needed.

3.  Discard onion pieces.  Toss cooked pasta with sauce until pasta is coated.  Serve with freshly grated Parmesan, if desired.  Enjoy!

I told you that was easy!  And the flavor is amazing, especially considering there are only three ingredients.  Comfort food at its finest.  Hazen's cookbooks are now on my wish list - see them here.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Fattoush Salad & Shrimp Curry: Nourish Cookbook Review

Recently, I was contacted by Nourish Books wondering if I'd be interested in reviewing a few of their books.  Even is this age of digital recipes and Pinterest, I am a sucker for cookbooks.  I think there is just something about flipping through their pages and being inspired about cooking delicious food.

I was pleasantly surprised when I received the books.  They are gorgeous!  The two books I received are: Pomegranates & Pine Nuts by Bethany Kehdy (since renamed The Jewelled Kitchen) and The Mighty Spice Express Cookbook by John Gregory-Smith.

The photography in both books is beautiful.  I wanted to eat this corn right off of the pages!

Both books are just packed with wonderful sounding recipes.  I really like the categories that Mighty Spice Express is divided into:  Mighty Bites, Not Quite Lunch, Midweek Lifesavers, Nice & Easy, Something Spectacular, and Naughty But nice.

After looking over both books, I selected two recipes to try.  First up - Fattoush Salad from Pomegranate and Pine Nuts.
Fattoush Salad from Pomegranate & Pine Nuts by Bethany Kehdy
Serves 4
Preparation Time: 10 minutes plus making the triangles
- Juice of 1-1/2 lemons
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
- 7 ounces of mixed greens
- 2 tomatoes, cut into thin wedges
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 cup radishes, thinly sliced
- 1 cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
-2 tablespoons dill, finely chopped
- small handful of fresh parsley
- 4 teaspoons sumac (I couldn't find so I omitted)
- 5 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
- 2/3 cup crumbled feta
- 1 ripe avocado
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Lemon wedges, to serve
For the Toasted Triangles:
- 2 Medium-large loaves Arabic Bread, cut into small triangles
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- sea salt

1.  To make the triangles, heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Put the bread triangles on a pizza stone or baking sheet, brush each triangle with olive oil and lightly season with sea salt.  Bake 7 minutes or until they are lightly browned.  Turn halfway through cooking time.  When finished cooking,  remove from oven and set aside.

2.  To make the dressing, put most of the lemon juice and olive oil in a mixing bowl and whisk together.  Adjust the sourness by adding more lemon juice, if you'd like.  Note - the sumac will add a tang to the salad, so it's best to error on the side of caution first and then adjust the zing of the salad once it has all been dressed.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
3.  Put the mixed greens, tomatoes, red onions, radishes, cucumber, dill, and parsley in a serving bowl and drizzle the dressing over the mixture.  Toss well, then sprinkle with the sumac, pomegranate seeds, feta, and toasted triangles.
4.  Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit and scoop out and dice the flesh, then add to the salad and gently toss again.  Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary.  Divide among four bowls and serve with lemon wedges and extra olive oil.

This salad tasted as good as it looks!  I loved it.  The pomegranates were a surprising addition and made this salad special. 

A little about Pomegranates and Pine Nuts from the Nourish website:
“In the Middle East, cooking is a truly intuitive art form …There is a saying that if you run with your senses, especially your sense of smell, that you will find inspiration. It is never about exact measurements, and always about instinct.”
The Jewelled Kitchen takes you on an unforgettable adventure of Middle Eastern and North African cuisines. We are all familiar with a few mezze favorites  -  hummus, falafel, tabbouleh and stuffed vine leaves  -  but Bethany offers up a whole host of other treasures. From Tuna Tartare with Chermoula and Sumac-Scented Chicken Parcels, to Cardamom-Scented Profiteroles and Ma’amoul Shortbread Cookies, here are mouth-watering dishes for you to try. Bethany’s recipes stem from her childhood, as she mixes traditional country fare with cosmopolitan feasts, and adds contemporary twists. In this book she unveils a culinary heritage that is as rich as it is diverse.

For my main course, I decided to make Rita's Tamarind & Coconut Shrimp Curry from the Mighty Spice Express Cookbook.  Originally, the photo in the cookbook and also the fact that it was included in the "Nice & Easy" section of the book is what drew me to this recipe.  Once I started cooking it, I wasn't quite sure what the flavors were all going to taste like together.  If you've followed along for some time, you know that I cook a lot of pasta and Mediterranean inspired recipes.  This curry is definitely different in flavor from what I normally make.  I am happy to report that I loved it!  the flavors were amazing and not overpowering at all.
A few notes about the recipe (from the author):
- If you can't find tamarind paste, just use the juice of one lime in it's place (that's what I did).
- Use chili powder if you can't find dried chilies

- 1¼ cups basmati rice
- 2 onions
- 2 tbsp. peanut oil
- 3 dried red chillies
- 10 peppercorns
- 1 tsp paprika
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1½ cups coconut milk
- 3 tsp tamarind paste
- 1lb 2oz raw, raw shelled jumbo shrimp (with or without tails)
- 1 handful of cilantro leaves- sea salt
1. Cook the rice according to package directions.  Cover the pan with a clean tea towel and then the lid. Leave to one side so that the rice can fluff up ready to eat.
2. Meanwhile, peel and finely slice the onions. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the onions. Cook for 4–5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until just turning golden.
3. While the onions cook, chuck the chillies and peppercorns into a spice grinder, and grind into a fine powder. Tip the ground spices into the pan with the cooked onions and add the paprika, turmeric and a good pinch of salt.
4. Mix well, pour in the coconut milk and add the tamarind paste. Mix everything together really well so that the sauce takes on a rich red color. Bring to the boil and add the shrimp. Give them a good stir in the hot sauce, then cover and cook for 5–6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are cooked through and beautifully pink.
5. Meanwhile, roughly chop the cilantro. Scatter the coriander over the cooked curry and serve with the rice.
Serves 4.

Oh wow.  I really loved this dish.  And it was so easy to make!  I think the blend of flavors make it seem much more complicated than it was.  I won't hesitate to make this again (along with several other delicious sounding recipes in the book!).

About the author: Spice master’ John Gregory-Smith shows how exciting food – inspired by street stalls all over the world – can be prepared with lightning speed. With inspiration from Asia, South America, North Africa and the Middle East, John has done the thinking for you and created recipes that are full of brilliant time-saving techniques and shortcuts.
Thanks very much to Nourish Books for providing me with these beautiful cookbooks.  I thoroughly enjoyed looking through them and see many new recipes in my future!  You can find Nourish books on Twitter - follow them right here. 

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