25 going on 13

When one of my best friends Jenny asked me to help plan her 25th birthday party, the option of no didn’t even cross my mind. I pretty much live for things like this. I spend a minimum of 20 hours a week taking mental notes from The Barefoot Contessa so that when things like this pop up I feel as prepared as Ina Garten would. During the planning of this party it hit me like a ton of bricks that Jenny and I had been friends for almost 13 years! Hidden beneath all of the sarcastic “over the hill” jokes was the realization that we are actually getting pretty old. I remember being 14 and having the most exciting part of my day be the walk to the lunchroom with my friends. Our focus has shifted from what time to have our parents pick us up from the mall to “Does this job have good benefits?”.

The party was a classic fiesta theme, and we even got a chili shaped pinata! These are the photos from the soiree.

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Stan Hywet: Ohio Mart 2012

I’ve written a number of articles on Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens, an iconic mansion here in Akron. Just to refresh your memory, It’s the only national historic landmark in Ohio. It once was the home to the Seiberling family, and is now an iconic museum. If you aren’t familiar with the Seiberlings, they are responsible for founding Goodyear Tire. They are also responsible for making Akron the rubber capital of the world. There are so many amazing events that take place all year round at the mansion. Murder mystery dinners, Christmas lighting events, and mansion tours to name a few. One of my favorites, of course being the fall event.

Ohio Mart is an arts, crafts and food festival that takes place in October at the mansion. These are the sort of events that remind you that the holidays are slowly creeping up on you. I think everyone goes through the initial shock of realizing you have to start planing for the season. An event like this helps to sort of get your mind flowing with ideas on what to gift friends and family.

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Sale Racks, Shish Kabobs, and Monday Off

Labor Day is a sort of all-encompassing holiday for many people. It represents about 800 different things in this country. Days off work, cookouts, retail sales, and family time. It also represents the beginning of the school year and, my personal favorite, the end of summer. The day after Labor Day is the official start of autumn. It’s like the unofficial grim reaper of all fun summer activities. For me its a knight in shinning armor, here to rescue me from forehead sweat, and pit stains. But as we all know, any holiday revolving around food will eventually pull me in whether I like it or not. I am simply no match for the smell of a charcoal BBQ grill (pun intended).

We had a big celebration this year at my grandmother’s house, as we typically do on holidays and special occasions. I’ve been on a shish-kabob kick for the past few months, so I decided to rub it off on my family. Along with my aunts famous million cheese mac & cheese, homemade loaded potato salad, and tons of other things. I got a few extra shish-kabobs from the deli to take home and experiment with on my own.

I’m in no position to call myself a grill master of any sorts. I can count the number of times I’ve ventured out onto the grill on my own. Many of those times ending with me digging burgers out of the hot coal with a fork because they’ve somehow slipped between the cracks. I know my place when it comes to the grill, and It’s on the sidelines fanning the smoke away. This weekend I decided to be adventurous, and grill the left over kabobs at home with my tiny, little mini grill (don’t make fun). Here’s the just of what went down.

Steak Marinade:

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup bourbon or other whiskey
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. Tabasco
  • Cracked black pepper to taste

Chicken Marinade:

  • half stick melted butter
  • 1 good spoon full of jarred minced garlic
  • cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. hot pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbp. good italian seasoning

Let chicken and steak marinade for at last an hour in the fridge, if you can do it overnight it’s even better.

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What are grilled shish-kabobs without fresh, grilled corn? incomplete I’d say! I wanted to kick the corn up a notch, so I made a mesquite BBQ butter to spread on top before the corn hit the grill. Just to give it a little extra flavor.

Mesquite BBQ butter recipe:

  • Half stick room temp. butter
  • 1 Tbs. Mccormick mesquite BBQ seasoning

ImageSeems like a lot, but it was actually pretty simple. The only step left is to actually grill the food on my miniature grill, and eat! 

ImageYou’ll want to grill the corn for around 10-12 minutes before you put the meat on. The corn takes a little longer, plus I like for my grilled veggies to be a little more charred. Sub-consciously, it’s probably to prove to people that I actually did cook it on the grill.

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ImageNot to toot my own horn, but I have to say that I was extremely happy with the turnout. It’s not typical that everything ends up the way you want it when you tackle a meal like this (for me at least) so this was a pleasant surprise. I’d like to think that Ina Garten is somewhere, giggling because she’s proud of me.

Spicy Steak Shish Kabobs

Do you ever watch someone on TV cook or eat something, and obsess over it until you’re able to have some of your own? I watched an episode of Diners Drive Ins and Dives the other night and had crazy dreams about shish kabobs. I don’t think I’ve ever actually made my own shish kabob, which is pretty insane to me. They are so easy, and I love any recipe that involves improvisation.

I went with a simple steak, green pepper, and onion kabob (we were out of mushrooms). This is my take on a much more complicated recipe.

  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • seasoning salt and black pepper to taste
  • cubed steak
  • onion
  • green peppers
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
Like I said, this is completely improvised. You can pretty much take a stab at any veggie you’d like (pun intended)
 
I rubbed the steak with the dry seasoning mix, and let it sit in the fridge for about a half an hour. I used that time to cut up the green peppers and onions.
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 I cooked the kabobs for around 2-3 minutes on each side (depending on how thick the meat is that you’re using). You also want to try and make sure the pieces are around the same size, otherwise it wont lay flat on the grill.

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They turned out amazing! the combination of the brown sugar and spicy chili powder is mind blowing. You’ll definitely want to let them sit for a few minutes after they come off, so that the steak can absorb the juices (thats truly where the flavor lies)

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I cheated, and paired the kabobs with a boxed rice. You can’t really go wrong with the San Francisco treat though, can you?

Crushed Strawberry Pancakes

Is there anything better than eating breakfast for dinner? It reminds me of being young, and thinking you were doing something naughty by eating pancakes past 2 in the afternoon. I felt like being naughty today, and I found this strawberry pancake recipe online. To me pancakes are like a blank canvas, waiting to be turned into something exciting. Don’t get me wrong, I love a traditional pancake as much the next guy. I just figure, why not jazz it up if you have the means.

The recipe called for the strawberries to be pureed, but I wanted a little bite in the cake. I snipped the stems off and smashed them for a few minutes with a fork. I then mixed them with my favorite traditional pancake recipe. You can basically use whatever mix you’d like.

I also stirred in a little cinnamon to give it even more of a kick.

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I paired the cakes with a maple sausage, and heated up some maple syrup. If only we weren’t out of milk!

Ham and Egg Crepes

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I stumbled upon this recipe tonight, and I cant wait for the morning so i can wake up and try it! The great thing about it is that it seems super easy. Plus who dosnt love a jazzed up crepe?

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 9 thin slices ham
  • 9 eggs
  • Chopped parsley

DIRECTIONS

1. Combine flour, sugar, salt, milk, four eggs and the melted butter in a blender and blend on high for 30 seconds. Let rest for 15 minutes.
2. Heat a 12 inch non-stick skillet over medium heat and lightly coat with butter. Add 1/3 cup batter and swirl to completely cover skillet. Cook until underside of crepe is very lightly starting to brown, about 2 minutes.
3. Loosen edge of crepe with spatula and then either using large spatula or your fingers, lift it up and flip it over. Cook another 1-2 minutes and then slide out of skillet onto wax paper. Repeat until all crepes are done. You should have about 9 when you are done.
4. Preheat oven to 350. Place crepes on a rimmed baking sheet (you can fit 3-4 per sheet). Place ham slice in center of crepe and carefully crack egg onto ham. Fold edges of crepe toward center, using the egg white as a kind of glue. Season with salt and pepper and bake until egg white is set, about 10-12 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve at once.