Doc’s Hard Sour Cherry Cider

Doc's Hard Sour Cherry Cider
Doc's Hard Sour Cherry Cider
Doc’s Hard Sour Cherry Cider

Hands up if you like cider? It’s kind of the gateway drug to beer. Sometimes it’s super sweet. Sometimes it’s too chemically sharp. There’s a spectrum from Woodchuck on one side to Cidre Bouché on the other.

We were at The Top last night and were pointed at this deliciousness – Doc’s Hard Sour Cherry Cider. It’s on draft and made by Warwick Valley Winery, which also makes gin and wine. The cider is gluten free, which is totally hipster. It’s made in New York state – ‘Murica!

Anyhow, we had already ordered our drinks and one of the bartenders that know I like cider had us try this, so we ended up double-fisting our drinks and this cider. Better yet, when we came back for brunch today, what else could you want?

It’s nicely sour, with a soft punch of cherry, supported by a dry apple cider. The cider pours a deep red brown color, and has a slightly sweet hint at the back of your tongue.

Try it, dude.

Doc’s Hard Sour Cherry Cider
Found at The Top
$5 / 12 oz pour

[Girl21]

There’s No Zucchini Here

Zucchini Rice Casserole
Zucchini Rice Casserole

Not to keep harping on this, but there are just some foods I was traumatized by as a child. Zucchini is one of them. I just can’t help thinking of phlegm.

As part of my effort to bring the ‘good’ foods back into my house, I’m trying out zucchini again. But I still cringe at MY OWN cooking if there’s zucchini in it. So the more I hide it FROM MYSELF, the happier I am. Blegh.

Enter the grater. Make it as small as possible. Hite it. And add cheese. It really works. Not only do I eat this, but The Man eats it. He actually says ‘yum’ when he finds me making it. I am NOT shitting you.

First make 1 cup of basmati rice, which becomes a little over 2 cups. While that’s cooling off a little, grate up
3 small zucchinis (or two medium ones, but this is a case of smaller is better)
2 medium carrots
6 to 8 ounces of cheddar (white sharp cheddar, not the orange junk)

You’ll need to toss that in a large, heat-resistant bowl with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar, and 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Keep a little of the grated cheese to sprinkle on top later. Add in:
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon mustard (Ba-Tampte is our current fav.)
½ teaspoon powdered ginger
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon salt (more if you like salt)
¼ teaspoon chili powder (or just a nice dash of cayenne)

I like to add in a few cloves of crushed garlic, or half of an onion, diced fine. I like to add some protein in the form of a can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed. Once you mix it all together to get all moist and evenly spread around, scoop in the rice and mix it up a bit more. Pour this into a casserole dish – I like to separate it into two 8”x8” dishes so that I can bake the second one in a few days for fresh casserole. Spread it out and smoosh it flatter or the pokes of rice will get overly crunchy, and then sprinkle with cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees until the cheese gets nice and bubbly with a little golden color. Probably about 20 minutes or so. After a few minutes to cool, you’re good to go. You can’t even tell there’s zucchini in there. Really. You don’t even have to tell anyone.

So, ingredient synopsis:
2 cups prepared basmati rice
3 small zucchinis, grated
2 medium carrots, grated
6-8 oz sharp cheddar, grated
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon mustard
½ teaspoon powdered ginger
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon chili powder (or just a nice dash of cayenne)
Either 3 nice cloves of garlic crushed, or ½ finely diced onion (optional)
1 can cannellini beans (optional)

If you want to hide the zucchini in there a little better, maybe finely chop up some spinach to camouflage the green bits 😉

[Girl21]

Smack That Basil!

Gin + Basil + Lemonade

Basil Gin Limeade drink

I’m not going to lie. I’m not a huge gin fan. Don’t throw something at me!

But I feel obligated to expand my horizons. I keep my eyes out for cool new flavor combinations. So hey – gin, lemonade, and basil. Why not?

My baby basil plants I started from seed were just big enough to produce decent leaves. As a fanfare to start the fresh basil season, I wanted to celebrate. Coinkydink? I think not. (That’s weird to see that word written down.)

Keeping it basic (seriously, some of these drinks recipes want you to steam or simmer the leaves beforehand), I settled for one part gin and three parts limeade over ice and basil leaves. Instead of muddling the leaves (green chunks in your teeth!), I opted to smack the three large basil leaves between my hands a few times to bruise them. Bonus is that my hands smelled good afterwards.

The Man did something similar with more gin, because he loves gin. Our gin of the night was Bombay Sapphire, something we readily have on hand. Again, The Man likes gin. And our limeade is generally Simply brand. No need for simple syrup or extra steps tonight. It’s Sunday and who needs that?

I think next round I’ll try more gin too because the flavor combination is quite nice. Citrus tends to highlight the best side of gin. And fresh basil will make almost anything taste awesome.

Repeat:
Old fashioned glass
Medium ice
3 large basil leaves, smacked like they asked for it
2 fingers of gin
Top off with limeade (or lemonade)

Great for a rainy Sunday evening.

[Girl21]

Seeing Double with Gigi

Gigi's Cupcake, Chocolate Salted Caramel
Gigi’s Cupcake, Chocolate Salted Caramel

I’m not the person that goes to a cupcake shop. Because a) I might go bananas and eat myself into a sugar coma, and b) I imagine the cupcake store patrons wear a lot more makeup than I do and get mani/pedis done regularly.

But I was ambushed at work by a box of Gigi’s cupcakes. Caught unawares, I saw myself reaching for a chocolate salted caramel creation with an afro of whipped butter icing topped with a liberal bath of chocolate ganache. It was a blur after that. Once I figured out how to get that huge thing into my mouth (hehe that’s what she said).

Ten minutes later the sugar entered my blood and my eyeballs started to vibrate in my skull. There was a lingering taste of chocolate and salt and maybe some caramel. I was smelling the number mauve. I could see the walls breathing.

For a franchise, these things were pretty dang good. I’m not going to be judgy about baked goods if they’re actually fairly decent. That said, I’ve heard other people complain, so I guess you can give a recipe to a franchisee, but you can’t make them bakers.

I would eat the hell out of another one of these any day.

Gigi’s Cupcakes
Gainesville on Archer Road:
3524 SW Archer RD, Suite 130,
Gainesville, FL 32608
352.240.6122
Gigiscupcakesusa.com

[Girl21]

Just Chickpea Salad

Chickpea Salad
Chickpea Salad

My mom used to make something like this and she called it Happy Tuna Salad. I’ve never had tuna salad, and I don’t like connecting my tasty food to something fishy, so I just call it chickpea salad. Just Chickpea Salad.

And since I don’t know what tuna salad tastes like, let’s forget there’s even a connection. This is just a nice stuffing for a sandwich. Great source of protein. Tasty. And requires very little actual effort. All good things during the summer.

SUMMER? What? It’s March 14th! Sorry, rest of the country. I was sweating in my car today, and have contemplated the air conditioner several times this week. I realize the rest of the country is still having that winter stuff, but here in the 352, it’s starting to look a bit like bikini season.

The less I have to spend over a hot stove, the happier I am. And I can make a batch of this up that will last a few days. Er… well, The Man makes it disappear quicker than that. So maybe I should just do double batches.

Smooshed chickpeas

With very little fanfare, here you go:

Just Chickpea Salad
1 can garbanzos
3 huge tbsp plain Greek yogurt
2 stalks finely diced celery
1/4 cup finely diced green olives
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 – 3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/3 tsp pepper (or 1/4 tsp fresh ground)
1/4 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp cayenne

1) This is the only actual work you’re going to do. Drain the garbanzons (yes, chickpeas), and smash them. Don’t puree, blend, or food process them. Just loosely shatter their little souls. I like to pour them into a shallow plate and smash them with a fork. They get a little dry and turn into a pile of chickpea shards. Which is fine and perfect.

2) Toss shattered chickpeas and finely diced celery in a bowl. I’m not telling you how to dice celery. I like it really chopped down so there’s crunch but not clunkers. But that’s up to you. Add in three heaping tablespoons of Greek yogurt. I mean heaping. Like I make it a game how much I can goop onto a tablespoon and get into the bowl. If I had a gun to my head, I would guess it’s a little over 1/2 cup. You can leave off the green olives. I go either way. They definitely add a pop of flavor. If you’re in the mood, toss them in.

3) Seasonings. Again, I’ve never had tuna salad, so you could probably make this taste like that if you were feeling wild. I like this flavor profile. Salt and pepper are a given. A touch of cumin and cayenne round out the garlic powder. But really, have fun with this. It’s a great base for whatever flavors you want to bring in.

4) Mix it up and let it sit. No really, this needs a good stir to combine everything because of the texture of the smooshed garbanzos. And you can certainly dig in right away. I’m not judging. The flavors do marinate well if you leave it for an hour, or over night.

But if I have some fresh beer bread on hand, The Man will physically push me out of the way to get dug in right out of the mixing bowl. Like tonight. I was trying to take a picture and I almost had to wrestle him out of the kitchen for the three minutes it took to get a good angle.

I’ve had this straight out of the container when I was starving. Slathered thick on a sandwich with some swiss cheese is my preference. I’ve even mixed it in with some pasta for a quick salad. It’s fairly versatile, and a nice punch of protein. And frankly, kind of cheap to make a lot of for the summer when the stove is not your friend.

[Girl21]

S.Pellegrino In My Mouth

Pellegrino, Blood Orange

This is what’s in my mouth right now. No, really. Right now. This is what I’m drinking these days because it’s tasty.

Sanpellegrino blood orange is my momentary addiction, and it goes fabulously with vodka, which is boss. I’m not going to go all poetic. Not this time. Just try it.

[Irrelevant note – I’m drinking Rain right now, but I’ve been falling madly in love with Reyka vodka.]

It’s great to have a six pack around. Drink it plain. Mix it with a decent liquor. I like vodka, but it would hold its own against a little gin even. I like spiced rum with a citrus mixer, too.

S. Pellegrino has been a snooty mineral water for a very long time. No, a looooong time. The town of San Pellegrino has been marketing the water for over 600 years. Leonardo da Vinci himself went to the town to check out the water.

In 1997, S. Pellegrino was bought out by Nestlé, which proceeded to market the water in a broader variety and packaging. Thus bringing us these fun cans of different tasty flavored Pellegrino. (The lemon is quite tasty, too!)

[Girl21]

Hong Kong Deli-ghtful

Hong Kong Deli, Gainesville FL

Better late than never on this one, since we’ve been fans of Hong Kong Deli for a while now. And I promise you that if you find the place, you shouldn’t get nervous. It doesn’t look like a bright and shiny chain restaurant because it isn’t. It’s an old building painted a color I like to call “My Retinas are Screaming” yellow.

Let’s be honest. Whoever you are, however much of a food snob you have pushed yourself to being, you get a craving for Chinese take-out once in a while. I grew up completely devoid of Chinese take-out and I now know what that persistent hankering was all of those years.

So why settle for –let’s be honest—shitty food? Most of the Chinese places I’ve eaten at were highly suspect when it comes to food quality and source. I always imagine stuff coming out of 50 gallon drums and giant tubs, thrown into the hot buffet trays, and left to simmer for hours in chemical-enhanced gunk. Well, yum!

Several friends had ranted (maybe a little spit flying in their excitement) about Hong Kong Deli for a while before we took the hint and tried them out. This is an odd Chinese and American couple who run the show. This is one of those places that are funky as hell, a family business, and a source of odd stories. I’m not going to lie to you.

But please overlook the cosmetic issues and focus on the food. This is definitely one of those places where you place your order and they turn around and start cutting the veggies fresh. You can’t walk in and walk out with your order. It’s going to take them 20 minutes to actually cook your real food.

We usually order some variation of a veggie and tofu stir-fry, but if they have it, always always always get the fried green beans with tofu. We haven’t explored the entire menu yet (mostly because I am a giant baby when it comes to spicy things), but overall, the food is always delish. The usual white rice, and sauce packets are included. Spring rolls, dumplings, etc. are always tasty.

Our carnivore friends swear by the duck and the pork. I have actually seen someone check themselves for drool when talking about the duck. No comment.

I cannot put enough stars next to the statement that you should try out Hong Kong Deli. It’s in a funny location, and it’s a funky building (behind the Indian store on north 13th, near Adam’s Rib). Go there. Except Tuesdays. They’re closed Tuesdays.

Hong Kong Deli & Market
1236 NW 21 Ave,
Gainesville, FL 32609
(352) 505-0454

[Girl21]

No Drama Trail Mix

 No Drama Trail Mix

There’s no sheltering you from the truth. I turn into a drama queen when I get low blood sugar. Hard to believe, right? I start shoving food into my mouth to stop the tummy rumblings, and often grab no-so-healthy snacks in desperation.

To stave off the hunger, and the lingering food guilt later, I like to keep something simple and quick on hand. My mom used to mix raisins, peanuts, and sesame sticks, and send that to work or school with us. It always reminded me of a PB&J. I took my mom’s original and modified it over the years, always trying to keep the sweet and savory balance, but adding some more complex nutrition for variety.

I highly recommend experimenting by adding or subtracting ingredients. Most of these things I buy in the bulk section at Ward’s and just estimate the quantities needed, so don’t get too exact with measuring. It’s always fun to make adjustments and try new variations.

Some of these bulk nuts are naked and unsalted (because you don’t need all of that extra salt in your face), and they benefit from a quick roast in the oven before you mix them in.

No Drama Trail Mix
Serves ‘a lot’

5 c. Cheddar sesame sticks
1 1/2 c. Dry roasted unsalted peanuts
1 1/2 c. Dried cranberries (Craisins)
1/2 c. Sunflower seeds
1 c. Pumpkin seeds
1/2 c. Walnuts
1 c. Date pieces / golden raisins

1. Roast the walnuts and pumpkin seeds in the oven first. Spread them on a tray and bake at about 350 for only a few minutes. You’ll see them start to toast or the pumpkin seeds will start to pop. This just brings out the flavor a little better. Let them cool off for a minute. *I’m picky about ‘bite size’, so I like to break up the larger walnut chunks before toasting them.

2. Combine all of the ingredients in a large sealable container. I use one that’s somewhat bigger than I need because it makes mixing easier. You can shake and roll the container to mix everything up. Otherwise, have fun mixing these goodies all up with a spoon (or your hands!).

3. You can of course start eating this right away, but if you let it sit overnight, it gets all friendly and marinated.

Not only do I send a jar of this to work with The Man so he can snack during the day, I pre-pack some into smaller containers so I can grab one as I run out on errands. If I’m hungry during the day, and mooching round in the kitchen for something to eat, I drop the chips or cookies and reach for a handful of this instead. Not claiming it’s the answer to all of your problems, but it’s better than being cranky because your tumbly is rumbly.

[Girl21]