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It was 102° here yesterday. 102. I’ve been living in Redondo Beach for over ten years, and I don’t think it’s ever been that hot here. I mean, I live 10 blocks from the ocean. It’s supposed to be cooler on the coast, not stale and sweltering. But I unfortunately can’t control the weather, and evidently Mother Nature is in the mood for a heat wave. So, while I should be thinking about pumpkin and apple pies, I’m thinking about grilling dinner outside instead.

My favorite thing to grill is chicken. It’s easy, it’s versatile and while I love hot dogs and hamburgers, grilled chicken just seems a little more special. But it’s only special if you prepare it correctly. Trust me, you don’t want to just throw some plain old boneless chicken breasts on the grill. They’re much more interesting if you marinate them or have a sauce you can ladle over them. This recipe has both.

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I’m all about juicy chicken and one of the best ways to get juicy chicken is to marinate it. Soaking it in oil and juices for a few hours fills the chicken with tons of flavor while keeping it nice and moist. Marinating is really the only way I make chicken because I hate it when it’s dry. There’s absolutely nothing worse than dry, rubbery chicken, which unfortunately is what you’ll get if you leave it on the grill too long. But a simple marinade of garlic, lemon zest and plenty of olive oil will give you nice, moist chicken that has some great flavor.

If you want even more flavor, adding a dressing with some of the same ingredients as the marinade puts the chicken dinner over the top. Now you not only have lemon and garlic seeping from inside, you have a tangy garlicky sauce that’s delicious on top of the chicken as well.

So while I know I’ll be roasting turkeys and baking plenty of pies (hopefully) in the very near future, for now, it’s all about the grill.

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Grilled Lemon-Garlic Chicken with Roasted Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, halved
  • 3/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced and divided
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup chives, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 pounds baby Dutch yellow potatoes, peeled

Directions:

  1. Whisk together a quarter cup of olive oil, the lemon zest and half the garlic in a large bowl. Place the chicken in the bowl, turn to coat, and set aside for at least 20 minutes and up to an hour.
  2. Whisk the remaining olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, mustard and chives together in a separate bowl and set aside.
  3. Preheat a grill to 350°F.
  4. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Place the chicken on the grill, skin side down and cook until the skin is crispy and lightly charred, about 4 minutes. Flip and continue cooking until the meat is cooked all the way through, 10 – 12 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter and tent with foil.
  5. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
  6. Toss the potatoes with 2 – 3 tablespoons of olive oil and then roast the potatoes until tender, about 7 minutes. Transfer the potatoes to the platter with the chicken. Drizzle the chicken and potatoes with the mustard/chive dressing and serve.

Presbyterian Cocktail

Posted by Jenn. Comment (0).

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Don’t worry, I haven’t suddenly gone all religious on you. I picked the Presbyterian because the first day of fall was yesterday. Unfortunately the temperature is still in the triple digits here in Southern California, which means I’m still in the mood for cool, fizzy drinks. Luckily, this cocktail is made with ginger beer which is perfect for autumn and the Indian summer heat.

Unlike the previous two cocktails, this one uses rye instead of gin. As you all know I’m a huge rye/bourbon fan, so any chance I get to use rye or bourbon in a cocktail, I’m on it! This one struck my fancy because it was so simple. Just like last week’s ginger beer cocktail, this one only takes two ingredients: rye and ginger beer.

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Because the Presbyterian has only two ingredients, the rye has the chance to really shine in this cocktail. It’s not being overwhelmed by the bitters, simple syrups or other mixers that are necessary in some of the older cocktails. It’s for that reason, I chose the Alberta Rye, Dark Batch.This is perfect for the Presbyterian because it’s made from rye, bourbon and sherry. I know sherry seems like an odd choice for a rye, but it’s the sherry that when combined with a blend of 12 and 6 year-old ryes, gives this liquor a spicy sweetness similar to the sweet spicy kick you get from a good ginger beer. It’s like the two were made for each other.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you who to thank for coming up with the delicious combo. I can’t even tell you why it was named the Presbyterian. After scouring the internet for the history of the cocktail, all I was able to come up with is that the drink predates Prohibition and is considered to be part of the highball family. Hopefully the drink’s lack of history won’t keep you from sampling it, though. Trust me when I tell you it’s totally worth it, and ideal for this Indian summer we seem to be stuck in.

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The Presbyterian

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. rye
  • 5-6 oz. ginger beer

Directions:

  1. Pour the rye into a highball glass. Add large ice cubes and fill the rest of the way with the ginger beer. Give a quick stir to combine the flavors and serve.

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Sometimes when it’s hot, the last thing I want to do is turn on the oven. It’s on those occasions that I turn on the grill. Yes, I know the grill is an open flame and so also quite hot, but at least I’m outside. Still, sometimes grilling up a piece of chicken or beef just isn’t enough. Sometimes on those warm evenings all I want is a salad. I’ve never been a fan of a plain, green salad though. I’m a carnivore so I prefer my salad to have meat. I don’t care if it’s steak or chicken, as long as there’s a grilled protein on top, I’m happy and I have a delicious dinner.

America’s Test Kitchen must know me pretty well because they provided me with this Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Salad which gave me everything I desire. See, this salad doesn’t just have greens and grilled chicken, it has noodles too. So, it really is the perfect meal. You get vegetables, proteins and grains. The only thing missing is sugars and oils, but thanks to the sweet dressing, you get those as well.

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It’s the dressing and marinade that make this salad. Don’t worry you don’t have to make 2 different sauces. As a busy cook and mother I like simple. See, the same marinade is used for the salad dressing; just make sure you split it into bowls, one to marinate the raw chicken and another to dress the salad. (You don’t want salmonella, right?) This simple dressing of fish sauce, sugar, lime juice and garlic gives the salad a nice, sweet flavor while keeping the chicken super moist.

Moist chicken is very important to me. I don’t know about you, but I hate it when chicken is dry. It doesn’t matter if it’s hot off the grill or cold out of the fridge, it needs to be moist.  Moist chicken just tastes better, and when chicken tastes better I (and my children) are more likely to eat it. The key to getting moist chicken is not overcooking it. But you can also achieve tender, juicy chicken by marinating it. The juices and liquids from the marinade seep into the meat tenderizing it while filling it with flavor. I try to marinate my chicken as often as I can not just because it adds those wonderful flavors but because the cooked meat tends to slice easily and melt in my mouth.

While I tend to use soy sauce or olive oil for my marinades, this dish called for fish sauce. Yes, there’s also sugar, lime juice and garlic, but the fish sauce is the key to this marinade. It gives the whole dish a distinct Asian flavor that’s delicious and doesn’t require you to order take out.

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Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Salad

Ingredients:

  • 7 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 7 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 5 tablespoons water
  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 8 ounces rice vermicelli
  • 2 baby gems, leaves torn
  • 1/2 cup sliced, toasted almonds

Directions:

  1. Whisk together the first six ingredients (through the water) in a large bowl until the sugar dissolves. Pour half the marinade into a pitcher and set aside. Add the chicken things to the remaining fish sauce mixture in the bowl and turn to coat.
  2. Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to 350°F.
  3. Prepare the vermicelli according to the package directions, drain and rinse with cold water until the vermicelli is cooled. Drain well and set aside.
  4. Divide the torn baby gems among four bowls and top with the vermicelli.
  5. Oil the grill grates and grill the chicken until lightly charred on the outside and a thermometer registers 165°, about 5 minutes per side. Let rest for about 5 minutes, then slice the chicken crosswise into strips. Place the chicken on top of the prepared vermicelli bowls, sprinkle with sliced almonds and serve with the dressing.

Gin Buck

Posted by Jenn. Comment (0).

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Fall is only a few days away so that means cool breezes, marine layers and maybe even the occasional cloud burst. Before the temperature drops completely though, there’s still time for cool, fizzy drinks. But if you’d like to acknowledge the fall, the Gin Buck is the way to do it.

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Similar to the Foghorn, this cocktail uses ginger beer. I love ginger and use it all the time in both food recipes as well as cocktails. See, I’m not a big spice fan. Chiles are usually too much for me, but ginger adds that extra little zing I love without sending me running for the ice water or milk. Plus, ginger always makes me think of fall. Around this time of year I start seeing ginger in almost everything from cakes and cookies to smoothies and cocktails.

There are several ways to include ginger in your drinks. You can take the root, shred it and infuse the liquor with fresh ginger, you can add ginger ale to your cocktail or you can do my personal favorite and add ginger beer. I prefer ginger beer to ginger ale because unlike modern ginger ale, most ginger beers are made with real ginger; so they have that extra zing I mentioned earlier. Now, if you think I’m suggesting ginger beer should only be used for fall cocktails, that’s not what I’m saying at all. While ginger absolutely reminds me of falling leaves and chills in the air, since it’s carbonated and usually served over ice, it’s perfect for a summer cocktail as well. As a matter of fact, if you’re as a big a fan of ginger beer as I am, you can use it year round. And there’s no better cocktail to start with than the Gin Buck.

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This drink is one of the easiest to make because it’s literally two ingredients. I know, two. Today’s version calls for gin and ginger ale. But if you want to go retro (and who doesn’t) the 20’s version calls for ginger beer and a little lemon juice. Don’t get me wrong, the ginger ale is good, it just doesn’t give that gingery zing that ginger beer does. So, if you want ginger, I mean real ginger, go with the ginger beer. You’ll get a great cocktail that’s perfect for this time of year and a good choice when the local watering hole is slammed.

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Gin Buck

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. gin
  • 5 oz. ginger beer
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice (optional)

Directions:

  1. Stir the gin, ginger beer and lemon juice together in a rocks glass.
  2. Add ice and a wedge of lemon for garnish and serve.

Mango Lassi Popsicles

Posted by Jenn. Comment (0).

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I’ve always been a fan of mangoes. They’re sweet and a little tart and perfect for smoothies or desserts. Plus, my sons absolutely love them. They ask for them every chance they get. They don’t care if they’re fresh or dried, though they prefer them fresh, and I don’t blame them.

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Fresh mangoes are amazing. They’re soft and sweet and melt in your mouth. So, you can understand how excited both my sons and I were when we received a batch of Keitt Mangoes from my friends over at Melissa’s Produce. The Keitts are unlike any mango I’ve ever had before. First off they’re huge! They easily weigh at least a couple pounds, and they’re so soft. When they’re ripe, they really do melt in your mouth. The reason these green beauties are so immense is because unlike other mangoes, the Keitts are left on the tree longer. That way you can eat them as soon as they’re plucked from the branches. The fact that the yellow flesh is less fibrous than other varieties make them ideal for blending into smoothies or cocktails or even popsicles. So, that’s what I did.

A few months ago I discovered a classic Indian drink called a mango lassi which is very popular during those humid Indian summer months. It’s super easy to make and quite refreshing. But while it’s delicious as a drink, I thought it would be even better frozen and served up as a popsicle.

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These popsicles are creamy, sweet delights that are ideal for those warm remaining days of summer. While any fresh mango can work, the Keitt’s are the perfect choice thanks to their silky, smooth flesh. They blend up beautifully, and I’ll definitely be using, eating and blending them up again as long as I can get them.

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Mango Lassi Popsicles (adapted from the Flavorful Shortcuts to Indian/Pakistani Cooking)

Ingredients:

  • 1 (6 oz.) container of lemon yogurt
  • 1 cup fresh mango, chopped
  • 6 oz. non-fat milk
  • 1 cup ice
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Pour all the ingredients into a blender and blend for several seconds until totally combined.
  2. Pour the contents of the blender into a popsicle mold. Add sticks and freeze for at least 5 hours or overnight.
  3. When ready to serve, remove the popsicles from the mold and enjoy.

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. Melissa’s Produce provided me with the Keitt Mangoes for recipe testing. As always, any opinion expressed is my own and is not influenced in any way by the manufacturer/PR firm as I only review products that I have personally tested and endorse.