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Ginger Apple Cocktail

29 Sep

Ginger Apple Cocktail 3

Hard ciders have been popular around the U.S. for almost two decades now. The Matilda Bay, Bartles and James wine-cooler-drinking crowd of the ’80’s started getting options in the ’90’s, and hard ciders were one of them. Beer drinkers also will tear into a cider, too, or even use it to make a shandy, which is half beer and half cider.

In Ireland, they have a cider that’s not too sweet called Bulmers, and in the states it’s named Magners. My wife fell in love with this on our last trip to Ireland and, until a BevMo opened in our area, we were hard pressed to find it.

But this post, short and sweet as it will be, is about a cocktail I created using my old bartending skills and a little ingenuity, AND it tastes like a hard cider! My kid went on a field trip to a local apple farm and brought back a gallon of regular fresh cider, which is unbelievably tasty. Of course, being the upstanding father-figure that I am, my thoughts started straying towards how to integrate it into an alcoholic beverage.

The best part is that this is 2 to 3 points on the old Weight Watchers system if you use diet soda (PointsPlus and 360° can fuck off beyond recognition). In any case, this is a refreshing fall cocktail that just works and will tickle you more than leaves on your taint.

Ginger Apple Cocktail

Makes 1

Ingredients:

1 1/2 oz. vodka (that’s one shot to common folks)

2 oz. apple cider or apple juice

2 oz. diet or regular ginger ale

Apple slice for garnish

Makin’ It:

This is too easy to make.

Fill a collins glass with ice. Pour in the vodka and the apple cider. Top it with the ginger ale. Either put the apple slice on the rim or into the drink itself. Give it a stir with a straw and you’re rockin’.

Note: This would be bitchin’ as a martini, too. Just shake the vodka and juice in an ice-filler shaker and strain it into a cocktail glass. Then, top it with the ginger ale and garnish.

Ginger Apple Cocktail 2

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

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Carol’s Beans and Chips

15 Aug

Beans and Chips 002

As we grew up, my house became a magnet for my brothers’ and my friends in large part because of my mom’s cooking. While I am sure that our gregariousness has attracted multitudes over time, my bros and I know that behind it all lurked the desire for my mom’s lasagna, burritos, pizza, and these here beans and chips. She always made enough and it was always that goddamn good.

For the past few years on Facebook, I’ve posted a picture of a little tradition we have at my house. On my mom’s birthday in March, we set up a mini “Carol feast” with her picture as an effigy, complete with Lipton’s Instant Iced Tea and a pack of Parliament Light cigarettes from the last carton she owned before she passed away (her actual last half-smoked pack of grits is in her coffin alongside a jar of Lipton’s, fyi). This little celebration always features potato chips and onion dip, brie with almonds and honey, and a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne to round it all out. She served this to guests 90% of the time she entertained after we all had grown up. Rather than cry, we toast a great woman and try to imitate her cackling laugh as closely as we can.

Inevitably when I post a picture of this, a few of my friends will comment on the post with “dude, Carol’s beans and chips. Best thing ever,” or similar sentiments. The beans and chips, so simple to make, were a staple for me and my friends at least twice a week during my teenage years. The key to their beauty is in the homemade chips; it can neither be fathomed nor appreciated using a suitcase o’ Mission tortilla strips or rounds. You have to fry corn tortilla triangles in oil, salt ’em hot, and dip ’em into seasoned refried beans while warm. Nothing like it.

Another component of this dish involves a Southern California institution: Del Taco. We call it either “Del” or “the Del,” and the chain evolved from another beautiful SoCal institution, Naugles (one can still be found in Fullerton, I believe). I am pretty sure that most truly old-school OC natives will tell Taco Bell to take a flying fuck over the Del, to be honest. We all have our routines when we eat there, too, and can readily identify our friends’ Del routines without batting an eye. For example, Jimmy and Griz always put fries in their burritos. My brother Chris’s go-to is a large red burrito with sour cream. Here’s Griz representing:

Griz

One of the most crucial parts of experiencing Del is the Mild Sauce they serve in packets. I am convinced that they have never bottled it so people will still indulge in their Del addictions. People might kill for this sauce. For example, one of my best friends got a box o’ Del Mild Sauce packets, a whole box, for his birthday and he’d be hard pressed to tell you of a better present. One of my most egregious fouls had to be when I stopped a friend from filling a large bag of Mild Sauce to take back east to college because I thought we’d get in trouble. I now realize that I was being a large pussy, but I have since apologized to him profusely.

Why do I bring this up? Well, that Mild Sauce is the perfect seasoning for the canned refried beans needed for this recipe. And yes, you have to rip open and squirt all 15 or more packets into the beans: it connects you to them. It reminds you of Del’s beauty and singularity. It’s both euphoric and sublime. Still you can use any hot sauce you like and it’ll work; I just wanted to pontificate about the Del for awhile and make this post longer because the recipe itself is short and basic.

Carol’s Bean and Chips

Serves 4 normal people or 2 teenagers.

Ingredients:

2 or 3 cans of refried beans, any type you like

15 packets (or more) of Del Taco Mild Sauce or 1/3 cup of hot sauce of your liking

1/4 cup sour cream

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup or more vegetable oil for frying

1 package of corn tortillas, cut into triangles

salt to taste

love

Makin’ ‘Em:

In a medium sauce pan, add the refried beans, Del or hot sauce, sour cream, and 1/4 cup of the cheddar cheese. Heat this over low to medium low heat, stirring fairly often to mix it all up and to keep it from burning on the bottom and sides. Keep this going as you fry the chips.

In a large skillet, add the oil and heat it over medium-high heat. When a drop of water cracks in the oil, it’s ready. Working in batches, fry about 6 to 9 chips at a time, turning them as needed to get a golden brown. Be careful doing this as the oil is muy dangerous. I use a fork and tongs for the flipping and removing. When they’re golden, remove them from the oil and drain them on paper towels. Salt them while they’re hot (it melts onto them) and then add another layer of triangles to the oil. Do this until you’ve fried them all. I usually remove the done chips to a serving basket to keep them warm.

Add the warm beans to a serving dish and sprinkle it with the rest of the cheddar cheese. Serve it warm with the chips and thank me (and Carol) later. You’ll get this:

Beans and Chips 006

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Bitchin’ Chicken Salad

15 Jun

Weight Watchers Chicken Salad

We all have our secret food indulgences that we are reticent to divulge. Now these guilty pleasures could be weird combinations, bastions o’ fat and calories, fast food, or items that are simply “wrong.” For example, there’s a reason why 7-11 sells rolled meat things filled with all sorts o’ stuff: people eat them!

One of my oldest friend’s weird indulgence is to have rocky road ice cream topped with halved green grapes. She then eats this using yogurt-covered pretzels. WTF? “It’s a texture thing,” I was told, and after having watched my wife go through a rough pregnancy, I totally understand this now.

My brothers and I swear by the 1970’s bologna sandwich, which is white bread (the Gemco brand, Lady Lee, no less) with generous mayo on it and two layers of American cheese and bologna. Heaven. How about a peanut butter and marshmallow cream sandwich? How about Kentucky Fried Chicken? Watch Louis CK talking about Cinnabon (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-N1MoKF31mg) and you will identify with him on some level. Lastly, if you follow this link, http://thisiswhyyourefat.com/, you will see some beautiful creations by people who have thrown off the yoke of decorum and set forth their food exhibitionism with grandeur. I am thinking that most people reading this post won’t get past these links, but oh well.

I have a food indulgence about which I am embarrassed, I admit. I have told very few people about it, and I know it’s wrong, but I still do it whenever I’m on a road trip. I love, and I mean love, the pre-made chicken salad sandwiches at gas stations or liquor stores. And I love to eat them whilst driving with an open bag of puffy Cheetos by the stick shift. If you ever happen to see me on the 101 south around the Las Virgenes exit, you will espy me doing this while maintaining beautiful SoCal driving control; with my knees I can almost pull off a 3-point turn in between bites of sandwich and puffy Cheeto.

Funnily enough, this whole diatribe leads to a chicken salad recipe that’s probably the best I’ve ever had, and it does NOT taste like the gas station sandwiches. In fact, this is based on a Weight Watchers recipe, and while I sometimes wonder if WW can pull off certain dishes, I admit that this one tastes as good or better than any non-WW chicken salad recipe I’ve had. The cider vinegar in it gives it a good kick in the pants, which is why I like it.  Moreover, one cup is a 4 on the old Weight Watchers system (PointsPlus and 360° can both fuck off egregiously), and with 2 slices of wheat bread, you’re looking at a 6 for lunch.  Not bad at all.

Bitchin’ Chicken Salad

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

1/4 cup light sour cream

1/4 light mayonnaise

1 tbsp. cider vinegar

1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

2 cups cooked, shredded or chopped chicken (Tip: Roast a whole chicken (450° for an hour) or some cut up chicken (400° for 35-45 minutes) coated with some olive oil and salt and pepper. Let it cool, discard the skin, remove the meat from the bones, and you’ll have the juiciest, most beautiful chicken ever. Or buy a rotisserie chicken from the market, take off the skin and bones, and you’re solid.)

2 stalks celery, diced

2 tbsp. finely minced onion

Makin’ It:

For the dressing, in a small bowl whisk together the sour cream, mayo, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper.

In a bigger bowl, combine the chicken, celery, and onion. Add the dressing and mix it all up well. Cover it with plastic and chill it for at least an hour. Serve it as a sandwich or alone. Avocado works well with it, too, but adds on a few points.

‘Tis a piece o’ cake, good for you, and perfect for summer lunch.

Weight Watchers Chicken Salad 2

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Curried Chicken Salad

7 Jun

Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich 2

I write this post with only one graduation ceremony in front of me before a few months o’ summer break. In truth, one of the reasons that I know that I love my job is that I will miss the classes that I had this last semester (the previous semester is another story). Specifically, the only British literature class I taught this year was one of the best I have ever had; we could engage in discussions about literature or culture or sundry cerebral topics with depth and curiosity.  Moreover, now they have the tools to understand some pretty complex reading, so it’s satisfying on multiple levels. It’s like they’re almost people, I dare say.

So a few weeks ago, I decided to plan an English tea party with them. Granted, this was my first period class, so it was quite an early tea in terms of English norms, but whatever. I fell short of making them dress up in suits and bonnets or having them raise their pinkies when drinking the tea for fear that they would tell me to piss off, but I did balk at it, of course.

I tripped out that, even with the ubiquitous Starbucks enterprise, most of them had no knowledge of a scone. Crumpets? They were bewildered. What the hell are tea sandwiches? Curry? No concept. But that’s why I’m there. So I told them where to go to buy what, and they had adventures.

When I introduced the idea, I explained that an English tea is another meal time across the pond…”very British,” I said. Their response? “You say ‘very British’ about everything in this class,” to which I responded in my best English accent, “Sorry,” which is very British as well. We generated a list of items to be purchased, set the date, and we were on our way. This event went smashingly well aside from a few hiccups, like kids eating un-toasted, cold crumpets, Flaming Hot Cheetos making the rounds, and my principal showing up towards the end of class as Eddie Izzard’s Glorious played on my Smartboard, but it all made it our own. No matter what career you’re in, throw a tea party in the states and people get titillated.

I have no idea where I got this recipe for Curried Chicken Salad, but I have refined it over the years and now it’s all mine. This works well with leftover chicken, too. It just kicks ass. I never order it anywhere now because mine’s better. This is probably not too bad on Weight Watchers, either.

Curried Chicken Salad

Makes enough for 10 sandwiches, I’m guessing

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked, shredded or chopped chicken (Tip: Roast a whole chicken (450° for an hour) or some cut up chicken (400° for 35-45 minutes) coated with some olive oil and salt and pepper. Let it cool, discard the skin, remove the meat from the bones, and you’ll have the juiciest, most beautiful chicken ever. Or put a few boneless breasts in a pot and cover with water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer covered for 30 minutes.)

1/2 medium onion, chopped (whatever kind you have works)

2 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 cup light mayonnaise

1/2 light sour cream

2 heaping tsp. curry powder

1/2 to 1 tsp. salt (to taste)

1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans or almonds (optional)

freshly ground black pepper to taste

paprika for a garnish

Makin’ It:

In a bowl, combine the chicken, onions, garlic and nuts (if using). In another bowl, whisk together the mayo, sour cream, curry powder, salt, and pepper. Pour the dressing over the chicken and mix it well, kid. Chill it for at least an hour.

Scoop it on a bed of lettuce and garnish with the paprika, or spread it on soft wheat bread to make a sandwich. For the tea party, I cut the crusts off and then cut the sandwiches into four triangles. Easy as a hippie who needs a ride to a tree sit-in.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Revived Pizza

18 May

Revived Pizza 2

I said in an earlier post that pizza’s like sex: even if it’s bad, it’s still pretty good. But one of my brothers-in-law disputed me on this, stating that bad sex can be, um, bad. I neglected to get the details of this, but I concurred that he might have a point, philosophically.

Since then, I have pondered, cogitated, and thought (all at once I might add) how to surmount this rub. So I revised my statement to him, stating that pizza is still like sex: some is better than none. I cannot imagine anyone arguing with that.

I got this recipe idea from the Eat Like a Man cookbook I received for an XMas present a year or two back (cool blog: http://www.esquire.com/blogs/food-for-men/).

To be brief, don’t just throw a piece of pizza in the microwave, and I again get philosophical on you: we cut too many corners these days, myself included, while the alternative is well worth the few extra minutes (resorting to masturbation chimes in here somehow, I think). Just like a cooling fall day that’s warmed by mom’s oven baking something, an oven-heated pizza slice warms the heart and only takes  few extra minutes.

Revived Pizza

Ingredients:

1 slice o’ left-over pizza

Parmesan, or a cheese that gets your pheromones a-flaring and your thighs a-tinglin’

1 egg, poached (best), basted (excellent), fried (good), scrambled (o.k. but somewhat ghetto), or hard boiled (ghetto)

Ground black pepper

Makin’ It:

Heat the oven to 450°.

Sprinkle the pizza slice with the parmesan. Put it in the oven for a good 8 minutes until the cheese is bubbly but not burnt.  Meanwhile, get the egg ready.

Remove the slice from the oven, place the egg in the center, and then douse it liberally with black pepper.

Eat it with a knife and fork, making sure to get that beautiful yolk on every bite.

Revived Pizza 5

I feel guilty in a sense because this is sort of a cheating post in terms of a “real” recipe; rather, this is an idea, but it’s a fucking brilliant one. In any case, some post is better than no post, right?

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Easy Asian Coleslaw

9 May

Asian Slaw 015

I have written a few times that Asian food is like a new frontier for me.  I wasn’t raised eating much of it, and in the 70’s and 80’s, most of the Orange County, California, food scene did not have a wide array of Asian restaurants. Thankfully, an influx of Vietnamese, Lao, and Korean families started populating the area, so it has since exploded into an Asian food wonderland of sorts.  While I will often berate the ubiquitous fake tits and humvees that festoon much of O.C. and which, consequently, led my wife and I to bid it adieu, I will say that now it has some balance by the soul brought in from different cultures and their cuisines.

But in my Carter and Reagan era childhood, Chinese food consisted of magenta-colored sweet and sour chicken from the only local Chinese place, The Golden Something.  Funnily enough, bean sprouts and duck scared me as a kid, but the unnaturally infrared gelatinous mess of carrots, pineapple, and chicken welcomed me with open arms.  I think my teeth looked like a photo negative by the time I left the restaurant, actually.

I have since learned to cook a variety of Asian main dishes, but I am sorely lacking in the side dish category.  Yesterday, I had an extra bag o’ coleslaw mix from a party we had on Sunday.  I knew I was making chicken satay (https://dinnerwithjonny.com/2013/01/24/ww-chicken-satay-with-peanut-sauce/), so I started googling.  I found quite a few Weight Watchers recipes calling for crushed raw ramen noodles for the crunch effect.  As I am not in the habit of having ramen around, this wasn’t going to work.  Instead, I found a recipe here: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe-Tools/Print/Recipe.aspx?recipeID=14297&origin=detail&servings=10&metric=false.

It goes perfectly with satay, as you will see, it is easy to make, and it is altogether wonderful.  I did make some changes, though…

I had no fresh ginger on hand last night.  But what I did have was some crystallized ginger left over from the holidays, which stays good for a decade or something.  It worked marvelously.

Easy Asian Coleslaw

Serves 6, I would think

Ingredients:

5 tbsp. rice vinegar, or white vinegar in a pinch

5 tbsp. oil

5 tbsp. creamy peanut butter

3 tbsp. soy sauce

3 tbsp. brown sugar (how come you taste so good?)

2 tbsp. minced crystallized ginger or fresh ginger

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 bag (about 8 to 10 cups worth or so) coleslaw mix (shredded cabbage and carrots)

2 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks

one bunch green onions, chopped

1 chopped bell pepper (optional)

chopped cilantro (optional)

Makin’ It:

In a bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, peanut butter, soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, and garlic.  Whisk it well so it’s all combined as a happy family.

In a large bowl for tossing, add the veggies and pour the dressing over it.  Toss this baby like you mean it and so everything is coated well.  Cover this and put it in the fridge to chill if you still need to make the main course, or serve right there. It’s kick ass both ways.

Asian Slaw 007

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino

Brocco-Chicken Pie

29 Apr

Brocco-Chicken Pie 010

The central coast of California produces some exemplary items.  For example, some 75%+ of the strawberries consumed by the United States are grown right here.

Santa Maria, the city in which I live, also had the honor of having the state’s worst drivers; in the last few years, there were more hit-and-run accidents per capita than anywhere else in the state. Almost every day, I see people stopped directly underneath “No Stopping Anytime” signs. Ironically, we moved away from Orange County to escape traffic, but here some drivers will stop in the middle of a busy thoroughfare, blocking traffic, to say ” ‘s up” to a friend meandering along the street, thus creating a voluntary gridlock along Broadway at which most people (not me) just shrug.

If you’ve never had Santa Maria tri-tip, put it on your bucket list. Moreover, our wine has its fair share of acclaim, especially after the movie Sideways was filmed here. Unlike another area in California that rhymes with “Mapa,” there are still many wine tasting rooms that haven’t been discovered by metropolitan-based weekend wine-pricks who pontificate on any given wine either to supplement their Viagra or to rationalize their alcoholism.

Empty beaches still exist here, and people still drive El Caminos here with a vengeance.

My wife is the office manager of a large greenhouse facility in Nipomo, California; chances are that, if you have bought a poinsettia at a California Costco during Xmas,  my wife was responsible for getting it there. Working in the agriculture business has its benefits.  She often comes home with bags full of freshly picked produce that one of her colleagues brought in.  At my school site, boxes of lemons, oranges, broccoli, or lettuce regularly adorn the break room tables with a sign saying to take as much as you want. A five minute drive yields farm fresh eggs costing next to nothing, and the strawberries that we get to buy at local stands are the best available in the world.

Today, a sack o’ fresh broccoli greeted me from my kitchen island.  Also greeting me were vapid boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  What to do, what to do…?  Pie!  Any time’s a good time for pie, so I got to thinking that a cheesy-broccoli-chicken-y thing would work.  Recipes for this exist all over the web, and I must have read about 6 to 9 of them.  But when it came down to it, like Luke Skywalker turning off his targeting computer to blow up the Death Star, I just went with the force and winged it.

The result, my very own Brocco-Chicken Pie, is pretty spectacular in terms of taste and ’tis pretty easy to make. I made the pie crust from scratch (and I nailed it, I might add, which is a first for me), but if I had the pre-made ones from the supermarket fridge, I would have used them instead.  The taste reminds me of the 50’s, gingham aprons, and home-cookin’.  You could easily make the filling beforehand and assemble the pie when you’re ready.

Brocco-Chicken  Pie

Serves 8

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. butter

1/2 onion, chopped

2 tbsp. flour

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup milk (low fat or whatever)

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (Swiss, Havarti, jack, or whatever would work here)

1 lb. fresh broccoli florets, steamed to the point where they’re not quite done, trimmed of most of the stems, and roughly chopped

2 cups cooked chicken, chopped (you could use canned chicken, but you’d be really ghetto, and I’d love you for it)

Salt and pepper

1 double pie crust for a 9″ pie

Makin’ It:

Preheat the oven to 400°.

In a medium saucepan or skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and saute the onions until they’re tender, about 4 minutes.  Add the flour, mix it well, and cook it for a minute, stirring constantly.  Using a wire whisk, add in the black pepper and broth. Whisk it all together until it’s creamy.  Add in 1/4 cup of the milk and whisk it again until it gets bubbly, and then add in the rest of the milk and whisk it until it’s bubbly again.

Add it the cheese, chicken, and broccoli.  Cook it until the cheese is melted and it’s a steamy, happy pie filling. Taste it for salt and pepper and adjust, if needed.

Line a 9″ pie dish with one of the crusts and pour in the filling, spreading it evenly.  Top it with the other crust and, pulling the bottom crust lip over, pinch it together with the top crust lip again the top inside rim of the dish until it’s all sealed and looks like mom made it.  Cut a few decorative slits in the top to let steam escape.

Bake this at 400° for 40 minutes, or until the crust is done.  If it starts getting too brown, put foil on it.  The juices will start to bubble up on the crust when it’s done. Let it cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes. Slice into 8 pieces and serve.

Brocco-Chicken Pie 008

While my pie might be ugly to the master pie-maker’s eye, it sings home-cookin’ to me.  This is easy to make and is great lunch for the next day.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013