H-M-G Iced Green Tea

The early heat of this summer calls for cool refreshment!  I love iced tea and have taken a liking to using green tea as a lighter alternative to traditional varieties.  Try this sun-brewed recipe for my Honey, Mint and Ginger tea to add flavor and sweetness for a perfect summer afternoon or a little happy hour cocktail with the addition of vodka and a splash of soda water.

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HMG Iced Green Tea

Ingredients

  • 2 Quarts Water
  • 4 Green Tea Bags
  • 1/4 Cup Honey
  • 1 “Thumb” Fresh Ginger
  • 3 Large Sprigs Fresh Mint

Instructions

  • Peel a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger and cut into slices.
  • In a small saucepan, combine two cups water, honey and ginger.  Bring to a boil and then turn down to let simmer for 5 minutes.
  • In a large glass pitcher, combine remaining water, tea bags, mint and honey/ginger liquid.
  • Cover pitcher with plastic wrap and place outside in the sun.  Allow to step for at least 4 hours.
  • Remove tea bags and mint.  You can also remove ginger pieces, but I like to leave them in to continue to flavor the mixture.
  • Serve over ice.

If you’re feeling like a cocktail, add 2 ounces of good vodka to an ice-filled glass, fill 3/4 with tea and then top with soda water.  Garnish with mint sprigs and an orange slice.  Either way you make it, sit back, sip and enjoy!!

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Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

Looking for a little something sweet and satisfying to go with your morning coffee?  Try this take on a run-of-the-mill zucchini bread recipe.  With sour cream for moistness and semi-sweet chocolate chips this sweet bread is perfect for breakfast, dessert or your upcoming 4th of July picnics!

CHOCOLATE CHIP ZUCCHINI BREAD

Ingredients

  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 1/2 Cups Sugar
  • 2 Tsp Vanilla
  • 3/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1/2 Cup Sour Cream
  • 2 Cups Grated Zucchini
  • 2 Cups All Purpose Flour
  • 2 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 Tsp Baking Soda
  • 2 Tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Tsp Ground Mace
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 1 Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a large bowl, beat eggs until frothy.  Add sugar and beat until sugar is dissolved and mixture is creamy.
  • Add vanilla, oil and sour cream.  Mix thoroughly.
  • Drain grated zucchini in a colander and stir into mixture until evenly distributed.
  • In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, mace and salt.
  • Pour dry ingredients into wet and mix until well combined.  Do not over-mix.
  • Fold in chocolate chips until evenly distributed.
  • Pour mixture into a buttered and floured bundt pan or 2 loaf pans.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes and then turn out to a wire rack to cool completely.

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This is a very simple recipe that can be made with variations.  Try substituting 1 cup chopped walnuts for the chocolate chips or a half cup drained crushed pineapple and a half cup raisins for the chocolate chips.  I’d love to hear what combinations you come up with and how they turn out.  Dig in and enjoy!!

Milwaukee Public Market

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One of the best ways to get a true feel for the people and the food of any city is to visit the local market.  If they don’t have an historical market, most cities are working hard to establish new ones as a gathering place and showcase of the fine foods they have to offer – Milwaukee Public Market is one of the finest examples I’ve seen.  Located downtown, conveniently near plenty of parking and other shopping, they feature tons of vendors with prepared foods, delicious ingredients for your own cooking, on-site cooking classes and a full calendar of interesting events.  To give you an idea, in the 3 days we were in town, we visited this place 3 times!

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Looking for some great coffee and sweets?  Grab a fantastic pastry or cookie from C. Adams Bakery.  The selections are endless and beautiful!  You’re definitely going to want to accompany your selection(s) with a honey vanilla latte (iced or hot) from Anodyne Coffee.  They roast their own beans and have some really great drink options.  Right across the street, and with 5 more locations throughout the city, is Colectivo Coffee.  They are worth a stop as well with a great selection of house-roasted coffee drinks as well as pastries and sandwiches.

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Looking for some real food?  Check out Aladdin for delicious homemade hummus and other Middle Eastern delights.  The St. Paul Fish Company has lots of selections of fresh fish for you to take home, but there were a ton of people sitting at their counter with smoked salmon on a stick or having fresh oysters shucked right in front of them!  I had the breakfast tacos one day from Margarita Paradise and was blown away with the quality and freshness.  Finally, for a huge selection of meats, homemade sausage, fresh salads and an endless number of sandwiches and panini, check out Nehring’s Family Market.

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My only regret is that we didn’t have more days to explore and try more things at the Market!  I highly recommend checking it out for a quick meal or a day trip before shopping in the Historic Third Ward – you’ll be one very happy foodie if you do…

Distil – Milwaukee

Our recent Milwaukee trip was full of adventures in sightseeing, music and food!  We definitely had a memorable stop at Distil.  A dark, comfortable restaurant with urban-classic decor wasn’t too busy or loud for cocktails and noshes on a Friday night out with friends.  If you’ve read some of my posts, you know I have an affinity for this type of craft American fare and distinctive drinks.  Distil did not disappoint!  The Rosa Umada was a fantastic experience/cocktail.  An old fashioned glass is sprayed with an aerosol of grain alcohol infused with clove and placed over a larger glass with smoking wood chips.  It’s brought to your table, the glass is removed to release the smoke and then a wonderful mix of bourbon, maple and vanilla is poured into it.  It’s a beautiful presentation and a fantastic twist on a classic bourbon cocktail.  I know I absolutely want to try making this at home – you can’t get enough of the smokey aroma!

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They have a great selection of small plates, we sampled the cheese board, charcuterie board and the steak tartare.  I’m sucker for these when they’re done well.  The boards looked gorgeous and were amply covered in a great selection of meats, cheese and accompaniments.  Whether is was the duck prosciutto with grain mustard, blue cheese with honeycomb and Marcona almonds or a cheddar, salami and raspberry stack they were all fresh and tasty!  The tartare had a nice texture, just enough capers and a creamy egg yolk.  The whipped bone marrow gave just enough fat and richness to set this apart from other preparations I’ve had.

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Overall, this was a really nice spot for small plates and cocktails.  I’d recommend it for a pre-dinner or pre-theater date night or happy hour.  Clinton Sterwald is an imaginative mixologist with a keen sense of aroma, taste and presentation.  The Apartment 137 is another must-try drink on their menu!  Give them a try for the best of Wisconsin’s small bites and cocktails.  You can check out their menu and story at distilmilwaukee.com.  Dig in!

Blueberry Buttermilk Mega Muffins

You’ll feel like you’re having a “vacation brunch” when you bake my favorite blueberry muffins!  Chock-full of sweet blueberries these dense tangy muffins are best when made in huge muffin tins.  This recipe yields just 6 muffins, but it’s tough to eat a whole one yourself.  Make them for your next weekend guests or for a lazy weekend morning on the patio with your iced coffee!

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BLUEBERRY BUTTERMILK MEGA MUFFINS

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp Salt
  • 1 Stick Melted Butter
  • 2 Eggs, Beaten
  • 1 1/4 Cups Buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 Cups Fresh Blueberries
  • 1 1/2 Tbs Large Crystal Sugar

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Stem and rinse blueberries and dry thoroughly on paper towels.  Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, sift together the first 4 dry ingredients.
  • Add beaten eggs and buttermilk to dry ingredients and mix just enough to combine.
  • Stir in melted butter until mixture is smooth.  It will be a thick batter vs. loose like cake batter.
  • Reserve 20-25 blueberries.  Gently fold remaining blue berries into batter until just evenly combined.
  • Spoon batter into large muffin tins (6 to a tray) that have been sprayed with cooking spray.
  • Use remaining blueberries to top muffins and then sprinkle evenly with crystal sugar.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  • Allow finished muffins to cool in pan for 10 minutes and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

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My mom made these muffins for me years ago and they are some of my favorites!  I’ve tweaked the recipe since to get just the right density and amount of fruit to hold them together.  I love them with blueberries, but they are excellent with mixed berries as well.  Try some variations and let me know what you think!

Easy Baby (Got) Back Ribs

Is BBQ a food group?!  I believe it should be – a lot of people would agree with me based on America’s obsession with BBQ cooking, restaurants and TV shows.  Baby back ribs are sometimes intimidating for people to cook at home, but they don’t have to be.  Whether braised, smoked, oven-baked or grilled I have a fool-proof method for tender ribs that will make you look like a pro!  The key takeaway from the recipe below is the method.  You can vary rubs and sauces, but by following these steps, you’ll always turn out competition-worthy ribs.

EASY BABY (GOT) BACK RIBS

Ingredients

Directions

  • Remove ribs from packing and pat dry with paper towels.
  • On the back side of the ribs, insert a knife under the silver skin until you can grab enough of it with your hand.  Remove the entire silver skin from the back of the ribs to allow for better cooking and more tender meat.  It may be easier if you use a towel or paper towel to grab the silver skin.
  • Using a sharp knife, cut the rack in half for easier cooking.
  • Generously sprinkle all sides of the ribs with your dry rub.  I love using Butt Rub, but there are tons of great dry rubs out there.  I’ll have a future post with several rub recipes you can make yourself!  Rub the seasoning into the meat well.
  • No matter your method of cooking, you want to take two steps.
    • First, place the ribs in a metal rack on your grill or on a cookie sheet for your oven and cook for 2 hours at 275 degrees.  On the grill, cook them over indirect heat – they will dry out and become tough on the outside.
    • After two hours, place both halves into a large piece of doubled-up foil.  Put butter and cider vinegar in the foil and seal completely.  Place back in the oven or on the grill for 1 hour.
  • Remove ribs from grill or oven and from foil wrap.  Discard foil and cooking juice.
  • The ribs are fully cooked and tender at this point.  I like to finish them over low direct flame on the grill and add sauce.  You can also sauce them in the oven if you prefer.  Either way, over the next 15-20 minutes, brush rib liberally with the sauce of your choice turning the ribs often to avoid burning.

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Follow this method and you should turn out beautiful ribs that have tender meat pulling away from the bone!  I use one of our local Cincinnati favorites – Montgomery Inn BBQ Sauce for a rich sweet flavor.  Try these with your own local favorite or homemade sauce.  I’ll have a few recipes in future posts for that too!  Send me pictures and stories of your best effort – I’m sure you’ll wow friends and family with this recipe…

Chipotle Beef Tacos

It’s Taco Tuesday and the perfect time to share the recipe I made this weekend.  I love a basic crunchy taco with ground beef, but this version elevates your traditional taco into something extraordinary!  The best part is that the beef is super-simple to make and can be used in tacos, burritos, nachos, breakfast and more.  I’d love to see your efforts and hear about how you used it.

CHIPOTLE BEEF TACOS

Ingredients

  • 3-4 Lbs Beef Chuck Roast
  • 1/2 White Onion, Chopped
  • 4 Cloves Garlic, Peeled & Smashed
  • 4 Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce
  • 1 Tbs Mexican Oregano
  • 3 Bay Leaves
  • 2 Tbs Paprika
  • 1 1/2 Tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1 Tsp Black Pepper
  • 1 1/2 Cups Beef or Vegetable Stock

Directions

  • Season both sides of chuck roast with salt and pepper.  Place in roasting pan or in a slow cooker.
  • Cover roast with chopped onions.  Dice chipotles and add them and about a tablespoon of adobo sauce to roast.
  • Add remaining ingredients and then pour stock over the roast.
  • Cover and bake at 325 degrees for 4 hours or in slow cooker on low for 6-8 hours.
  • Remove roast and shred with two forks.
  • Skim fat off the remaining cooking liquid and remove bay leaves.
  • Add shredded beef back to liquid and allow to cook an additional 30 minutes.

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This finished meat will be tender, flavorful and a little spicy.  This time I used it in corn tortilla tacos topped with shredded cabbage, crisp radishes, queso fresco and green onions.  I think they would have been better with hot sauce and maybe a creamier cheese or possibly a dressed cabbage vs. plain.  However, they were still delicious and I can’t want to try them again.  Give this a try and make your own Taco Tuesday spectacular!

Buttermilk Biscuits

There’s something about a warm homemade biscuit that’s really comforting.  Maybe it’s the Southerner in me or it’s the soft flaky pillow that can be the vehicle for so many delicious things.  I’v heard a lot of people say they have a hard time making good biscuits.  While these weren’t my best effort, they were pretty good.  The recipe is solid, but the handling of the dough and cutting make all the difference in the world.  Give them a try and let me know your experience – I’d love to hear what went well and didn’t.

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BUTTERMILK BISCUITS

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 Tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 Tbs Baking Powder
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 6 Tbs Cold Butter
  • 1 Cup Buttermilk

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Directions

**I find this easier in a food processor, but you can definitely make these by hand

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • In a food processor, combine the first four ingredients.  Pulse a few times to mix thoroughly.
  • Making sure your butter is very cold, cut into 12 small pieces and place in food processor.  Pulse until mixture is crumbly and looks like lumpy sand.  You should have small chunks of butter evenly throughout the mixture.
  • Add one cup of buttermilk and pulse just until mixture comes together.  It should be fairly wet and you may need to add a bit more buttermilk.
  • On a floured surface, turn out biscuit dough and form into a flat 1-inch piece.  Fold onto itself 5-6 times and flatten again.  DO NOT overwork dough as this can develop the gluten and make for tough biscuits.  DO NOT use a roller, but pat with your hands only.
  • Using a biscuit cutter or other round implement of choice, cut out biscuits and place on a cookie sheet.  If you want your biscuits to rise more while baking, make sure they are touching on the cookie sheet.  Some people like to bake them in a 9-inch round pan as well.
  • Bake at 425 degrees for 8-12 minutes until golden brown.  You can brush the tops with melted butter when they come out of the oven.

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This is a very basic recipe, but it can be changed in numerous ways.  Think about adding rosemary and cracked black pepper and topping with sea salt.  What about cheddar cheese and jalapeño?  The possibilities are endless, but I’d love to hear what you try!  Eat these with a thick pat of butter and honey or do something inventive.  This time I made breakfast sandwiches with country ham, sharp cheddar and over-easy eggs.  I also used it as the base for a country-style strawberry shortcake.  Any way to like them, it’s easy to make them homemade and your family and friends will love you for it.

Fifty West Brewing Co. – Cincinnati

It’s no secret that I, like most of America, love craft beer!  One of the gems in Cincinnati is Fifty West Brewing Co.  Located on the east side of the city, they have a wonderful selection of house brews and a good menu to match.  What I love most, is that they have a great variety beyond the typical IPA-heavy selections you see elsewhere.  Still, I started with the Petroglyph Pale Ale, which was aromatic, slightly hoppy and had a good bitter finish.  My wife went with the Fuzzy Feeling Golden Ale, a crisp fruity light beer with a good apricot flavor.  You could drink that one all day – it just tastes like summer!

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The atmosphere is warm and comfortable in the bar and the restaurant.  They also have patio space as well as a shuffleboard table room with additional bar seats.  We sat in the bar area and started with a couple of appetizers.  The Pretzels & Pimento Cheese are salty, warm and buttery.  The pimento cheese isn’t memorable, but it was definitely good.  We also tried the Cornmeal Crusted Goetta Balls.  For those that aren’t from here, goetta is a pork product made with spices and cut oats.  It’s served all different ways, but in this application it makes for a creamy “sausage-like” center in contrast to a crispy exterior.  Dipped in grain mustard, these were delicious, but really heavy – they could totally be an entree.

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We decided to split an entree and the Brontosaurus Beef Rib with Gouda Grits was really good.  This is a huge piece of slow-cooked meat with a great outside char.  Pull pieces of this rib away from the bone with just a fork and make sure you get some of the great Carolina-style BBQ sauce with each bite.  It was moist, smokey and was complimented really well by the creamy grits and crunchy cole slaw.  It’s a huge portion and I think you’d be hard-pressed to polish this thing off on your own.  It would be a lot of fun trying though!

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Overall, it was another excellent meal at one of our favorites.  The menu has a lot of great choices and I highly recommend the wings and the mussels – especially the mussels!!  Brewmaster Blake Horsburgh and Chef John Tomain will keep you coming back again and again for new beers and seasonal menus.  Check out their website fiftywestbrew.com and grab a growler at their location or one of the other outlets they distribute to around the city.  You will be as big a fan as I am!  Oh, I almost forgot to tell you to stop in for “Penny Tuesdays” when you flip for every beer and either pay full price or just a penny – either way, you’ll come out a winner…

Asian-Glazed Grilled Swordfish Skewers

When you travel a lot for work, it feels great to be home for a week and get creative in the kitchen.  Feeling the heat of summer means keeping it light with this twist on traditional grilled kabobs.  Swordfish is meaty and will stay on a skewer and hold up on the grill.  It feels like a stick-to-your-ribs meal with the addition of Brussels sprouts and cremini mushrooms al covered in a tangy Asian-inspired glaze.  The combinations are endless, but give this a try for something new and different without stacking on the fat and calories.

ASIAN-GLAZED GRILLED SWORDFISH SKEWERS

Ingredients

  • 1 Lb Swordfish Steak(s)
  • 8 Cremini Mushrooms
  • 12-16 Brussels Sprouts
  • 3 Green Onions, Sliced Thinly

Asian Glaze

  • 3 Tbs Light Soy Sauce
  • 2 Tbs White Wine Vinegar
  • 2 Tbs Honey
  • Juice & Zest of 1/2 Lime
  • 1 Clove Garlic, Minced
  • 1 Tsp Grated Fresh Ginger

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Directions

  • Clean and trim Brussels sprouts.  Steam on stovetop or microwave for 7 minutes, until slightly soft.
  • Cut swordfish into 1 1/2 inch cubes.
  • Alternate fish, Brussels sprouts and mushrooms on skewers.  DO NOT overcrowd them or they won’t cook evenly!
  • In a small bowl mix all ingredients for the Asian glaze.
  • Grill skewers on medium heat for 5-6 minutes, turning twice.  Lightly brush skewers with glaze and continue to cook for an additional 5-6 minutes.  Turn and glaze every minute or so.  Fish should be opaque and firm to the touch.
  • Remove skewers from grill, glaze once more and serve over white sticky rice.  Finish with sliced green onions.

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These don’t take long to grill, so it’s important that you steam the Brussels sprouts ahead of time or they won’t cook through.  Also, there is an absence of salt and pepper in this recipe because the glaze seasons everything really well.  If you like things a little spicy, I would replace the garlic clove with a tablespoon or two of sriracha.  Either way, this is a healthy dinner that’s filling and good for you too.  Let me know how it goes and what you changed!