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Tex Mex Sloppy Joes
10


I feel lucky enough, with my aging and increasingly cluttered brain, to have distinct memories of many nights at the dinner table with my family.  Family dinner (at the kitchen table) was a basic requirement to living in my parents house.  I’m sure my adolescent years were filled with dread about that required family time but today I couldn’t be more thankful for the memories I have about those nights.

On one such night when I was maybe 11 or 12, we had taco salad for the first time.  It was nothing fancy, as tacos don’t need to be – taco meat with all the fixings over crunchy tortilla chips – but it felt like a revolutionary dinner.  Tortilla chips with dinner?! Score!! I don’t remember tacos being in my mom’s rotation previous to that (she may tell you otherwise in the comments here) so this was quite possibly a seminal moment happening.  It was also likely that we didn’t eat much Mexican or Tex Mex food aside from tacos or taco salad after that since it turns out that my mom loathes cilantro.  I died a little inside when I learned that recently.

So these Tex Mex sloppy joes combine an American staple food that epitomized my childhood dinners with my utter love for Tex Mex food today.  Set between two halves of a soft homemade bun with a hefty serving of guacamole, these sloppy joes are a little spicy but totally homey and familiar at the same time.  Get your napkins ready and belly up to the table for this dinner – it’s a favorite we’ll keep coming back to, even if *cough* we eat ours in front of the T.V.

Tex Mex Sloppy Joes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

    For the sloppy joes:
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 chipotle chile en adobo (or ¼ tsp chipotle powder)
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 ¼ lbs ground chicken, turkey, or beef
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • ½ medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 oz beer, such as a light ale or lager
  • 2 tbsp ketchup
  • ¼ cup cilantro
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • For serving:
  • 6 warm hamburger buns (like these jalapeno cheddar buns)
  • Guacamole
  • Sliced jalapenos, chopped cilantro, diced onion, grated cheddar or Monterey jack or crumbled queso fresco (all optional)

Instructions

  1. Add the tomato sauce, chipotle chile (or powder), oregano, ground cumin, smoked paprika, allspice, cayenne and Worcestershire sauce to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.
  2. Brown the ground meat in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally until browned, about 10 minutes. Drain off the fat. Warm the canola oil in the pan with the browned meat then add the onions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Pour the tomato mixture into the skillet along with the beer, ketchup and cilantro. Stir until well combined.
  3. Bring to a low simmer over medium heat then reduce the heat to medium-low heat and cook uncovered for 15 minutes. Stir in the lime juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve on warm buns with suggested toppings, if desired.

Source

source: adapted from Homesick Texan

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Smashed Avocado-Chile Tartines
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I’ve got this thing about weekend lunches.  Kyle’s got this other thing.  I feel they should be quick and easy, not requiring thought or time.  Kyle, it seems, grew up in Europe where lunches are often have more emphasis than dinner.  (He didn’t, by the way.)  For me, a sandwich and some fruit or chips or leftovers from during the week make the perfect weekend lunch.  For Kyle, roast chicken with herbed potatoes and steamed vegetables are ideal.  (Actually, it’s more like hot dogs or burgers on the grill with potato salad and beans.)  And I realize that throwing a few dogs on the grill is not complicated by any standard but I grew up with the mindset that the kitchen is closed for lunch on the weekend – make yourself a sandwich or starve…and I’m ok with that.

But I made an exception on the 4th of July – it was a holiday, what can I say?  These avocado-chile tartines were just as easy as making a sandwich…and let’s face it, tartines are the European version of sandwiches so I’m still moving with the same train of thought here.  Basically, I steeped some garlic and chile flakes in olive oil, grilled some bread, and smashed up some avocado.  That’s it.  And now I can add an avocado tree to my list of must-grow fruit trees (do they even grow in the northeast?) because between guacamole and these tartines, I could seriously go broke on avocados.  Rich, buttery, creamy smashed avocado with a hint of heat on crispy, crunchy grilled bread – the perfect light weekend/day-off lunch.

**Note** – When writing the original recipe, I forgot to include the lime juice; the recipe below has been adjusted to include this.

Smashed Avocado-Chile Tartines

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 3-4 lunch servings

These tartines would make an excellent and quick weeknight dinner served with a side salad or fabulous appetizers for a party – just grill or toast up small rounds of French bread instead of ciabatta. For our tartines, I used sesame semolina (a crusty Italian bread) but if you can’t find it, ciabatta bread will work too. There will be some leftover chile-oil – it keeps well in the fridge for a couple of weeks and can be brought to room temperature to be used in other recipes (like brushing onto pizza dough before building a pizza).

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ tsp red pepper chile flakes plus extra for sprinkling
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed (skins removed)
  • ½ loaf ciabatta or other crusty Italian bread, sliced on the bias (diagonally to maximize surface area), about ½-inch thick
  • 2 ripe avocado, pitted, removed from skin, and cubed
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat grill to medium-high heat (about 400° F).
  2. In a small saute pan, heat the oil, chile flakes, and garlic over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes, or until the chile flakes and garlic start sizzling. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes – do not let the garlic burn. Remove from the heat and pour the oil through a mesh sieve into a medium bowl. Discard the garlic and chile flakes and set the oil aside for 5 minutes.
  3. Brush both sides of the bread slices lightly with the oil. Grill both sides of the bread until they are lightly browned and toasted around the edges – this takes about 3 minutes per side.
  4. While the bread grills, in a medium bowl, smash the avocado with, lime juice, about ¼ tsp salt and a sprinkle of pepper with a fork, leaving some larger chunks, if desired. Stir in 2 teaspoons of the chile-oil.
  5. Divide the smashed avocado between the grilled bread slices, drizzle with a little extra chile-oil and sprinkle the tops with extra chile flakes before serving. Serve the avocado at room temperature while the bread is still warm from the grill.

Source

source: inspired by Bon Appetit Magazine, July 2012

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Spicy Turkey Meatball Parm Subs
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OK, so I confused myself when typing out the title of this post.  Here in CT, we call these types of sandwiches grinders…but how many of you have actually heard that before?  I grew up calling them subs or heroes – the “grinder” completely baffled me when I went to college in New Haven so many years ago.  I know some of you guys call them hoagies too and there are probably a few other names that I’ve never before as well.

But the name is neither here nor there.  What really matters here is what’s on the inside: spicy turkey meatballs smothered in tomato-basil marinara sauce and melted mozzarella cheese.  After a 5 hour drive back from northern Vermont today, this was the best dinner I could have asked for and when Kyle reminded what we were having tonight early on in my trip, it was almost all I could think about the rest of the way.  We always keep a bag of homemade meatballs in the freezer for quick dinners like this one and within 20 minutes of emptying the car of my bags and goodies, this outstanding dinner was on the table (coffee) and I had my feet up.  What an awesome way to end a great weekend!

Classic American Sandwich Bread
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classic sandwich bread

Is there nothing more satisfying than a warm loaf of freshly baked homemade bread?  Not in my book and apparently, not according to so many of you who entered the KitchenAid Mixer giveaway last week and told us that the first thing you would do with said mixer is make homemade bread.  Well folks, congrats to Steph who said:

Steph is the winner of the KitchenAid mixer and even though her plans are to make chocolate chip cookies (her coworkers are really excited about her win, by the way), I’m pretty sure she’s going to want to make this bread also.  Heck, you’re going to want to make this bread because it is quite possibly the most fantastically amazing homemade white bread ever created.

classic sandwich bread

Overly effusive?  Yes.  Lying?  No.  Seriously, it’s difficult for me to accurately describe the perfectly soft crumb without snacking on a piece of it with some softened butter and tangy rhubarb strawberry jam as I sit and write this post (actually, it’s not so difficult for me to do this).  It’s difficult for me to tell you how four adults nearly devoured an entire loaf in one day.  And it’s difficult for me to tell you that I will be making my third loaf this weekend in as many weeks.  I beg you, please go and make this bread so you can start telling me how awesome it is.  This bread is the epitome of what homemade sandwich bread should be.  It’s bread that can make you squeal with delight over eating a turkey sandwich.  We love it dearly.  You will too.

Classic American Sandwich Bread

Prep Time: 2 hours

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 50 minutes

Yield: 1 loaf

Ingredients

  • 3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
  • 2 tsp table salt
  • 1 cup milk, warm (about 110° F)
  • 1/3 cup water, warm (about 110° F)
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1 package or 2 ¼ tsp instant yeast

Instructions

  1. Adjust oven rack to low position and heat oven to 200° F. Once oven temperature reaches 200° F, maintain heat 10 minutes, then turn off oven heat. I use the proof setting on my oven which maintains the heat at 85° F so if your kitchen is warm enough, there is no need to use the oven for proofing – just keep the bowl in a draft-free area of the kitchen.
  2. Mix 3 ½ cups of the flour and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix milk, water, butter, honey, and yeast in 4-cup liquid measuring cup. Turn mixer to low and slowly add liquid. When dough comes together, remove the paddle attachment and switch to the dough hook – the dough will be very sticky at this point. Increase speed to medium (setting number 4 on a KitchenAid mixer) and mix until dough is smooth and satiny, stopping machine two or three times to scrape dough from hook if necessary, about 10 minutes. If, after 5 minutes the dough still sticks to the side of the bowl, add another ¼ cup of flour to the dough, 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Turn dough onto lightly floured work surface; knead to form a smooth, round ball, about 15 seconds.
  3. Place dough in very lightly oiled bowl, rubbing dough around bowl to lightly coat. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap; place in warm oven until dough doubles in size, 40 to 50 minutes.
  4. Form dough into loaf by gently pressing the dough into a rectangle, 1-inch thick and no wider than 9 inches long, with the long side closest to you. Next, starting with the long side, roll the dough firmly into a cylinder, pinching the seam with your fingers to make sure the dough sticks to itself. Turn dough seam side up and pinch it closed. Place dough in greased 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan and press gently so dough touches all four sides of pan. Cover the pan with plastic wrap; set aside in warm spot (not in the oven) until dough almost doubles in size, 20 to 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, heat oven to 350° F and adjust the racks to the center and bottom positions. Place an empty baking pan on the bottom rack. Bring 2 cups water to boil.
  6. Remove plastic wrap from loaf pan. Place pan in oven and immediately pour heated water into empty baking pan; close oven door. Bake until instant-read thermometer inserted at angle from short end just above pan rim into center of loaf reads 195° F, about 40 to 50 minutes. Remove bread from pan, transfer to a wire rack, and cool to room temperature. Slice and serve.

Source

source: adapted from Baking Illustrated, by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine

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Spinach, Feta and Sundried Tomato Egg Sandwiches
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Every morning, I fight against my breakfast vice: a bagel with cream cheese.  Without a doubt, I could eat a bagel with cream cheese every single day of my life and never get tired of it.  My metabolism, however, does not agree with this way of life.  So on most mornings my breakfast consists of a toasted multigrain English muffin with either peanut butter, raisins, and a sprinkle of cinnamon or sweetened cottage cheese and for the most part, I’m truly satisfied with these options.  But when I need a change of pace, I make myself a healthy egg sandwich like this one with spinach, feta, and sundried tomatoes on my favorite multigrain English muffin.  It’s a quick breakfast to throw together on busy mornings and I love the fact that it’s so filling that I don’t even think about anything else to eat until lunchtime.  All in all, I never miss the bagel with cream cheese when I’ve got an egg sandwich like this one to look forward to in the morning!

Spinach, Feta and Sundried Tomato Egg Sandwiches

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 2 sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, stemmed
  • 4 sundried tomatoes, rinsed, drained, and chopped
  • 2 eggs beaten with a dash a water
  • Pinch of garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 oz crumbled feta
  • 2 English muffins (I love Thomas' Light Multigrain), toasted and buttered (optional)

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a 10" or 12" nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add spinach and cook until wilted; stir in the sundried tomatoes and heat through, about 2 minutes.
  2. Stir the eggs into the spinach and sundried tomatoes and add the garlic powder, oregano, and a little black pepper. Using a spatula, stir the eggs until cooked through, about 4-5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the feta. Divide the eggs between the English muffins and serve hot.

Source

source: Smells Like Home original

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Jalapeño Popper Grilled Cheese
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It snowed for the first time this winter over the weekend.  And actually, the puny 6 inches that fell to the ground didn’t amount to much, considering the 15 inches we got socked with in October.  Needless to say snow makes me crave grilled cheese.  This probably goes back to my childhood where grilled cheese and tomato soup were standard fare on snowy days but on Saturday, I didn’t feel much like tomato soup.  I was feeling spicy.  Spicy grilled cheese.  Jalapeño popper grilled cheese.  It was a creative sandwich I had seen on Foodgawker months ago and I filed it deep in the recesses of my brain; this was before my Pinterest boards were built, of course.

I already had a opened can of pickled jalapeños in the fridge which needed to be used up and this sandwich was the optimal way to do so.  And let me tell you, I freaking loved this sandwich.  I’m not a crazy hot and spicy lover but the pickled peppers mute the heat and I was sure to remove all of the seeds and ribs from the pepper before adding it to the sandwich.  I surprisingly only had good ol’ deli-sliced yellow American cheese in the fridge, so that’s what I used…and it’s usually my cheese of choice for grilled cheese anyway so I wasn’t making a sacrifice here.  With a mellow level of spice and lots of cheesiness, this sandwich was just like a really good jalapeño popper should be – leaving you craving more.

Jalapeño Popper Grilled Cheese
source: adapted from BS’ in the Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices sandwich bread
  • Butter, softened
  • 2 tbsp cream cheese, softened
  • 4 to 6 pickled jalapeños, sliced in half lengthwise, seeds and ribs removed, and patted dry
  • Sliced American cheese (or whatever cheese you choose), 2-3 slices per sandwich depending on the thickness of the cheese

Instructions:

  1. Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium-low heat.
  2. Lightly butter one side of all the bread slices
  3. Divide the cream cheese between two of the slices, spreading it out evenly on the un-buttered side of the bread.  Lay the jalapeños halves over the cream cheese.  Lay the American cheese over the jalapeños and add the second piece of bread, butter side up.
  4. Place the sandwiches in the pan and cover the pan with a lid or piece of aluminum foil; this will help to retain the heat in the pan and melt the cheese.  Heat each side of the sandwich until desired darkness and until the cheese inside is melted.  Slice and serve warm.

Yields: 2 sandwiches

Shrimp Po’ Boys
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There have been a few times in the past couple of months where I considered canceling all of my food magazine subscriptions.  The guilt I feel about these food magazines is sometimes enough to make me not want to renew each year.  They sit in a neat stack on the shelf of my coffee table, oftentimes untouched for months, even if never opened for the first time.  I wouldn’t say that I have an unhealthy relationship with these magazines but it could be a more mutually satisfying relationship…and by that I mean that I’m really the one who should be getting more than nothing out of magazines that sit untouched and unread.

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So last week when I finally flipped through one of Bon Appétit’s early summer issues (yes, for the first time), I was stopped dead in my tracks by a photo of a sandwich.  I turned around to my menu for the upcoming week, added it to the list, and then obsessed about this sandwich for the next 3 days.  Now, I’m not one to eat-then-immediately-blog what I make but I couldn’t wait to share this recipe with you, even if I only made it last night.  These shrimp po’ boys were amazing beyond my expectations.  Paired with a homemade rémoulade sauce (made with homemade pickles, I might add) and coated in a spicy Cajun dry rub, the shrimp truly shine in this sandwich.  The sandwich as a whole is full of heat, though not an overwhelming amount for a light-weight like me, and is perfectly well-balanced by the rémoulade and cool tomato, lettuce, and a couple of pickle spears on the side.  The original recipe called for batter-dipped fried shrimp and while that sounded awesome, we overindulged a little this Labor Day weekend so I lightened up the shrimp by sautéeing them instead – my changes are below.  We were both sad to see the last bites finished up but we’re already planning who we can make them for in the next few weeks – they must go on the menu again soon!  And even though it took me until August to get to June’s issue, I couldn’t be happier with this recipe…maybe I’ll reconsider my impulse to not renew this year since my faith has been furtively renewed.

A New Orleans Round-Up
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As we come to the end of Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday approaches, I thought it would be fitting to post a round-up of a few New Orleans-inspired dishes I’ve made in the the past year.  If you’re not familiar with the significance of Fat Tuesday, it is the day before Ash Wednesday (when Lent starts) and marks the end of the Mardi Gras celebration.  The Lenten season is a time of periodic fasting (many Christians “give up” certain foods, items, or behaviors to signify fasting) and Fat Tuesday is the last big day of eating before the 40 days of Lent.  So if you’re looking for some great dishes for Fat Tuesday…or for any other day…be sure to check out these recipes.

Muffaletta

These meatless muffalettas are on top of our favorite sandwich list and we make them often.  With a number of dominant flavors, they all mesh beautifully, and even if you’re not a fan of olives, I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll love this sandwich!

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Jambalaya

Chicken and shrimp jambalaya is a big favorite around here and I’ve got it on the menu for this week again.  Shredded chicken and juicy shrimp are cooked with spicy rice and you can’t beat this easy weeknight meal.


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Homemade Potato Chips

Cajun-seasoned homemade potato chips are a simple and satisfying side dish or snack and what’s amazing about this recipe is that you “fry” the chips in the microwave.  Yep, a quick trip in the microwave actually yields a crispy potato chip!

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Beignets

You can’t get a more traditional New Orleans food than a beignet.  Fried dough covered with powdered sugar is found in many different cultures but there is something magical about beignets.  These are apple-filled and come with a butter-rum caramel dipping sauce.  Uh…yes please!

Road Trip: New Orleans!
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~~~Wow. Wow. WOW! Project Food Blog Round 6!!  Can I just give another shout-out to all my foodie friends?  Your continued encouragement and excitement during each round has been awesome.  I hope this post lives up to your expectations and regardless of the outcome of this round, I have to say that this one has been my favorite challenge thus far.~~~

Road trips are what we do.  We haven’t taken a week-long vacation in almost 3 years but we do love to pack up the car and drive and luckily, the Northeast has a bounty of fabulous places to drive for just a weekend.  Lake George, NY and Portland/Freeport, ME are two of our favorite weekend trips and we especially love Lake George and Adirondack State Park so much that we’ve been there 3 times in the past year alone.  The Lake George region is a quick 3 hour trip and boasts some of the most spectacular lakes and mountain peaks in the Northeast.

Unfortunately, a trip up to Lake George wasn’t in the cards for the Road Trip challenge but I put together a meal that would “travel well and still look great” and is one we could totally bring with us on our next trip to the North Country. Project Food Blog asked us to “to whip up a entree, side, drink, and dessert to enjoy after hitting the road.” We took our picnic to the local Kettletown State Park, which is just a few minutes from our house.  And let me tell you, this park is gorgeous this time of year so it was hard to resist for our picnicking spot.

Working up this menu was so much fun!  I built the whole menu around the spectacular sandwich served at Big Summer Potluck this past August, the Meatless Muffaletta, a vegetarian version of the famous New Orleans-style sandwich.  From there, I considered building a warm, fall-food picnic menu, but decided to move in a direction closer to what we would eat should we take a road trip to New Orleans.  Neither of us have been there before but it’s on our list of 10,000 places we want to visit so why not bring a little of NOLA up to CT?  Here is our Road Trip Menu:

Entrée
Meatless Muffalettas
Olive tapenade with artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, provolone, mozzarella, and muenster cheeses on homemade Kaiser rolls

Side Dish
Cajun-Seasoned Potato Chips
Homemade microwaved potato chips seasoned with sea salt and Cajun seasoning

Dessert
Apple Cider Beignets with Butter-Rum Caramel Sauce
Traditional NOLA beignets filled with fresh apples served with a luscious homemade butter-run caramel sauce for dipping

Beverage
Ginger Ale
Homemade ginger ale soda made with fresh ginger

In all honesty, I was nervous that Kyle wouldn’t like the muffaletta.  Neither of us like olives but I fell head over heels in love with this sandwich in August and since our tastes are so similar, I figured I’d try it out on him.  And it turns out that he loved it just as much as I do.  The flavors in the sandwich are very prominent exclusive of each other but they work beautifully together.  Make sure the roll you choose to use for this sandwich is a sturdy one that can hold up to the filling.  The Kaiser rolls I made this morning were absolutely perfect.  I’d never made sandwich rolls before but decided to give it a go for this challenge – why not go all out, right?!

Are you thinking, “microwaved potato chips?  Is she crazy??” Well, thanks to Alice at Savory Sweet Life, I stumbled across this method just this morning and to save a few minutes and a ton of calories, I decided to give these chips a go.  They were amazing!! Who would have thought that paper thin potato slices would actually crisp-up in the microwave? I mean, really…nothing gets crispy in the microwave! But it actually works!  These chips were so great sprinkled with a little sea salt and Cajun seasoning and remained crispy all day.  I made little cones with parchment paper to transport the chips and surprisingly, they didn’t spill all over the cooler during the trip!

Once I decided on the NOLA-themed menu, beignets were the natural choice for dessert but it wasn’t until I came across this apple cider recipe with butter-rum caramel sauce that I really started getting excited about the menu.  Fried dough + caramel = heaven!! Add some fresh apples to mix and you’ve got a stunning dessert to have at home or on the road.  To transport the beignets, place them in some parchment paper and staple the parchment together to create a pouch for the beignets.  Hold off on putting the powdered sugar on until you arrive at your destination.  I poured the caramel sauce into an 8oz mason jar for the trip and brought a little bowl along for dipping. Easy!!

Admittedly, drinks are not my specialty.  For the most part, I drink water all day long, every day.  I love my water but I was pretty sure water wouldn’t do for this challenge.  It was Kyle who came up with the suggestion for ginger ale and I was sold immediately.  Though it’s never the first type of soda I reach for, it’s always one that’s always refreshing when I do drink it.  After checking out a few recipes, the one I ultimately chose was spot-on.  Both the muffaletta and chips were on the salty side and this ginger ale provided the perfect amount of sweetness to complement the other parts of our lunch.  For the purpose of this road trip, I poured the simple syrup and ginger-water into a quart-size mason jar and kept the club soda separate until we were ready to pour the ginger ale.

We had a blast this afternoon on our Road Trip picnic in spite of the rain that started before we were ready to leave.  After feeling like I’ve missed my last 5 weekends because of the time I’ve spent cooking and blogging, I’m so so happy to have been able to get outside and enjoy some time with Kyle.  All of the dishes I made for this picnic couldn’t be easier for you to make and I hope you’ll give these recipes a shot the next time someone shouts ROAD TRIP!!

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