Satchel’s, Get the Bumper Sticker

Satchel's Pizza
Satchel's Pizza
Satchel’s Pizza

If you live within 300 miles of Gainesville, you’ve seen the bumper stickers on everything from the ratty Subaru wagons to dusty Lexus SUVs. Hand-lettered, artsy signs asking forgiveness for being late because the driver was at Satchel’s. Contrived cute hippie statements worthy of Be Here Now. These are the great, galloping herds of the Satchel’s temple cult.

You may sense a slightly sarcastic note here, so I have to confess. We live mere blocks from Satchels. Close enough that when the wind blows, I can smell hot cheese, burnt dough, and patchouli. In the early days when I first moved in to this house, I ate Satchels often. Too often. I burnt out–no pun intended.

Reluctantly I’ve started eating there again. From time to time, friends play live music at the Lightening Salvage stage, and of course The Man drags me out for live music, pizza and beer. (I protest at the lack of air conditioning in the Salvage area in the dead of summer while eating hot pizza.) I’ve once again become intimately familiar with the menu.

I am well aware of how many people adore the kitschy decorations at Satchel’s. Here’s me going out on a limb to have an opinion (rare, I know). The place is kind of cool, and obviously a lot of work went into it all. It gives me the shivering willies. I can’t help but imagining a trailer park in Arizona completely populated by alien enthusiasts in aluminum foil hats. End opinion.

That aside, the food is spectacular. The salad is a delicious meal in itself. The calzones are deadly pockets of yum. They’ve got a small selection of beer and wine. As for the actual pizza, there’s a great selection of toppings, and the crust and sauce taste handmade. The good kind of handmade. If you’re lucky and smart, you’ll call ahead and get them to start a deep dish pizza for you since they have a limited quantity of the crusts, and they take a while to cook (I suggest basil, garlic, and black olives on top!). In fact, I suggest calling them with your order as soon as you get in the car to head over there, since it can often be hugely busy and you might wait an hour for your food.

So slavish followers and creepy decor, vs. distinctly delish pizza. Kind of even battle there. The thing that throws it for me is the culture of Satchel’s business practices. There are stores I don’t shop at because I don’t agree with the mood of the company and the way they interact with their community. Satchel’s strives to exhibit the gold-star standard of how a business should treat its employees and its community. This is the good side of the hippie culture (yes, I’m a direct descendant of hardcore hippies, so I know what I’m talking about).

If you’ve never been to Satchel’s, here’s a few things you need to know. There is seating in the old van parked out front, as well as around back past the gift shop. Yes, they have a fun gift shop. Parking is lousy, especially when it’s busy. They do catering, and you can do carry-out orders. This is a cash-only establishment (but they have an ATM in the hall). The deep dish pizza is the best, but they only prep a quantity and can run out. You will not be able to look at everything they have decorating the place.

This is one of those places that is intrinsically Gainesville. For good or bad. G’ville was a haven for hippies through the years, and these flower children grew up, had kids, had grandkids, and evolved their ideals to survive in the real world. Then there’s the poor Southerners who couldn’t escape to the big cities, and the college kids (some of whom can’t escape G’ville even after their multiple degrees have been earned). So we have this gumbo of unusual local characters and transient upwardly-mobile youths.

You’re highly likely to meet this gumbo at Satchel’s. If you make it through dinner without seeing someone you recognize–well, I have to wonder how long you’ve been living in the area. In fact, if you’re reading this and haven’t been the Satchel’s, you must have just moved here this year. But that’s okay. Go to Satchel’s try the salad and the deep dish pizza, and buy a bumper sticker to put on your car so you’ll blend in with the locals. And no, it’s not an excuse for being late.

Satchel’s Pizza
1800 NE 23rd Ave
Gainesville, FL 32609
www.satchelspizza.com
352-335-7272
Tuesday-Saturday | 11:00am-10:00pm

[Girl21]

The Pizza Struggle is Real

Gainesville's Pizza War 9-23-15

It’s a real thing. The battle over Gainesville’s best pizza. This is the third best way to start a fight at a civilized party (after politics and religion).

Pizza preference is arbitrary. Every special little snowflake thinks their criteria and judgment is the most correct. So to be honest, this is just one special snowflake’s opinion. I’m not getting an in-depth review here. Just a suggestion list.

1) Best Deep Dish – Satchel’s
They make limited quantities, so call ahead to make sure they have it and will start baking it before you even get there. I recommend the garlic, basil, black olive combo of toppings. Satchel’s is cash only but they have an ATM in the building.

Satchel’s Pizza
1800 NE 23rd Ave
Gainesville, FL 32609
Phone: 352-335-7272
www.satchelspizza.com

2) Best Thin Pizza – Italian Gator
It’s a window between Gator City and Jimmy Johns in midtown. Parking options suck because of campus, and there’s limited choices in general. But just get the cheese pizza. It’s hands-down the best regular pizza in town. The crust / sauce / cheese balance is just right.

Italian Gator
1728 W. University Ave.
Gainesville, FL 32603
Phone: 352-367-4600
italiangator.com

3) Best Old Gainesville – Leonardo’s by the Pan
Leo’s hasn’t changed in as long as I can remember. The wooden shingles and faux-stained glass inside. The booths. The crossword on the wall. The sauce is chunky and mysterious. The garlic rolls are tasty, dense dough balls. The pizza is unmistakably handmade. They call it Chicago-style, but it’s old school Gainesville with a touch of hippie.

Leonardo’s Millhopper
4131 NW 16th blvd.
Gainesville, FL 32605
Phone: 352-376-2001
leonardosmillhopper.com

4) Best chain/franchise – Piesano’s
Not going to lie. I do get suckered into chains and franchises, and I’m not going to turn down decent pizza. I have to give props to Piesano’s because of the diversity of their selection and options.

Piesano’s Stone Fired Pizza
check their website for the three locations and contact info:
www.piesanostogo.com

5) Best Late Night Travesty – Five Star
Despite what I feel like the next day, there is nothing like being downtown when the bars are letting out, and catching one of the wandering Five Star guys for cash-for-hot-pizza. You have to sit in the doorway of a closed business and eat it right from the box with friends, burning the shit out of your mouth. If you hate this experience, you’re old and can stay home.

Five Star Downtown
210 SW 2nd Ave
Gainesville, FL 32601
Phone: 352-375-5600
http://www.gatorpizza.com

More you should know about:

Big Lou’s – I’ve had enough pizza here to say it’s hit or miss. When it’s good, it’s great. And when it’s bad, it’s not too bad. Plus it’s nice to sit on the patio downtown and people watch.

Big Lou’s NY Style Pizzeria
5 SE 2nd Ave
Gainesville, FL 32601
Phone: 352-335-7123
www.biglouspizzeria.com

Leonardo’s by the Slice – Part of the Leonard’s 706 & Bistro1245 family, Leo’s by the Slice is a cornerstone of Gainesville pizza, and an integral part of the college experience. Parking is atrocious, and the place is kind of grubby, but the pizza is good and quick. I’ve lived in town long enough to know people who worked there, and have some hesitation about the state of the kitchen. But that’s hearsay for now. I’ll still eat there for old time’s sake.

Leonardo’s by the Slice
1245 W University Ave
Gainesville, FL 32601
Phone: 352-375-2007
www.leonardosgainesville.com

A Perfect Pie – mad props for bringing options to Northeast G’ville. And this guy is from New York. He even has NY plates on his car. So as sketchy as this place might look when you pull up, take a chance to try a hidden NE gem. If you remember Lisa pizza in the mall back in the 90s, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Just a little less greasy.

A Perfect Pie
1818 NE Waldo Rd.
Gainesville, FL 32609
Phone: 352-745-7898
www.aperfectpie.com

Huge note: I have not food-trucked it so I can’t have an opinion about Humble Pie or Ameraucana Wood Fire. Yet.

A Perfect Pie

Half cheese, half garlic pizza
Half cheese, half garlic pizza
Half cheese, half garlic pizza

Update: A Perfect Pie has left the NE side of town and taken up space in the Oaks Mall. We haven’t been for pizza since (because really, the mall?!), so we can’t tell if they’ve changed much. Boo for loosing one more NE business.

The pizza snobbery in Gainesville is lovely and astounding. We have such a loyalty to our favorite places, and we actually feel proud of our pizza options.  And what makes a pizza good is totally arbitrary, unique to each individual. Yes, I’ll get into the best pizza places in town in a different post.

For the moment, let’s talk about a sketchy little option in the NE part of town.

Wait, I do get grumpy about Northeast Gainesville because it’s the older, poorer side. We have gross roads, few dining options, bad schools, and the atrocity called Wal-mart. It’s straight up working class. The people are blue collar. They’re hard working. They’re diverse. They stretch their dollars from paycheck to paycheck.  And they are largely overlooked. (Putting soap box away.)

Back to Waldo road, between Tacachale and Wal-mart, a few blocks south of UF’s Eastside Campus.  Kind of nestled among the barber shops and the bail bonds offices. And it’s sketchy as shit. No, seriously.

A Perfect Pie. When you drive in, note the cars with New York plates. The hand painted and economy printed signs. The often-renovated building painted with a solid coat of non-descript red and white. My sister and I used to call a place like this a front—a place that inexplicably exists for years, likely because it facilitates other types of business. Not that it’s true of this place. Really.

Short story, you want to try this pizza. It’s good pizza made by people that don’t just toss a pie from a freezer to an oven. My folks are from Philly and this is the kind of place we would go to on our Jersey beach trips. The menu encompasses the kind of stuff you imagine it would (wings, salads, pasta, subs, burgers, deep fried stuff). They even do big sheet pizzas for parties and groups.

The less-short story. The crust is basic. I kind of want it to be more hand tossed. But it’s thin and supports itself. The cheese is mostly real and nicely bubbly and stretchy when it’s hot. The two wins are the sauce and the balance. I’m picky about sauce, and it’s right between sweet and tangy. And balance—the right quantity of crust to sauce to cheese.

It’s big. It reheats well. It’s even good cold with coffee the next day. It’s not going to blow your flip flops off, but you’re going to have a happy belly. Plus it’s a great location on our side of town.

A Perfect Pie
1818 NE Waldo Rd.
Gainesville, FL 32609

Phone: 352-745-7898 / 352-745-7897 / 352-745-7896

www.aperfectpie.com
Jump to menu…
Email: info@aperfectpie.com

Ginger Brown Sugar Simple Syrup

Ginger Brown Sugar Simple Syrup

You can go to a store and buy simple syrup. I won’t complain. You can even go buy some fancy stuff that’s more than just the basic model.

But…. if you want to save a stupid amount of money and make something really tasty in less time than it takes to boil water, keep reading.

This is the part where I write stuff that’s happy and homey to convince you that I know how to put on an apron or mix a drink. Consider my job done and we’ll move on. I like to drink our house ‘panty dropper’ on occasion, and I’m just not going to buy simple syrup to make it. Here’s how you, too, can do it for yourself.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup brown (or light brown) sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 thumbs worth of fresh ginger
Ginger Brown Sugar Simple Syrup
Ginger Brown Sugar Simple Syrup

Put the sugar and the water in a small sauce pan on medium heat and stir just a little bit.

Peel the ginger and chop it into long, thin slivers, like fat matchsticks. Or however you want. Thin slices lets the good stuff out of the ginger, and longer slices means its easier to keep tabs on the things floating around.

Toss the ginger into a glass jar (I have a stash of Mason jars and pasta and peanut butter jars for these kinds of things).

Bring the water and sugar to heat but not to a boil. It doesn’t have to get super hot. Just enough to dissolve the sugar. Seriously, this should take like 5 minutes and you’re done.

This is HOT still, so let it cool a little, then pour it into the jar with the ginger. Let that cool to the point you can touch it before putting the lid on and putting it in the fridge. Leave it over night for best results so the ginger and the sugar can get all romantic.

I usually leave the ginger in there for the duration of use because it taste better every day. And I also use the ginger for a second round of simple syrup if it’s still fresh enough.

Yes, you can get super creative here and add black peppercorns, orange peel, cranberries, or anything that sounds fun. I love ginger and brown sugar for the drinks I mix. Go wild and have fun!

Swamp Head’s New Tasting Room

Swamp Head tasting room
Swamp Head tasting room
Swamp Head tasting room

Everyone is thrilled that Swamp Head built a new facility with a much, much larger tasting room. It was kind of brutal on a busy evening. The small tasting room and overflow to the warehouse space (no air conditioning) was easily over crowded and whiffy (sweat).

The new space is quite large, and has lots of tables and seating. But it faces west and catches the bright setting sun which can be a bit warm. And I’m not going to lie; it gets kind of loud from the echoes. The space is very open and bright and fresh. You can see where they have the room to develop a nice outdoor space overlooking a curated man-made pond. Or in the fullness of time, the patio can be enclosed and almost double the taproom floor space.

Behind the cool bar, there are the usual standard brews on tap, plus a rotating selections of the fancier beers. And a few guest taps offer other Florida breweries’ productions. Again, you can see that there is room for expansion for more taps. They can also wash and fill growlers, which will come in handy after July 1st when the government clicks over and allows the sale of ‘normal’ size growlers. There is also the cooler where you can select bottle and canned beer to take home.

Tuesday is brewery tour day, and the usual 5:30 and 6:30 times are expanded to a 7:30 tour. But still come early because they fill up fast. It’s only $5 and it includes a beer in a glass you can keep. It’s limited to 15 people each tour and it’s first come, first on the list.

Please, please look at the new address before hopping in the car to go to Swamp Head. We’ve had several grumpy friends arrive late or call of the evening because they ended up at the old location (not actually possible now) or drove around looking for the new place. It’s tucked up in the industrial complex off of SW 34th, just north of the big Post Office. It shares a cul-de-sac with the old Alley Katz.

Hours:
Tuesday-Friday 4:00-9:00PM
Saturday 1:00-9:00PM
*And check in to find out what’s on tap and special releases going on.

Swamp Head Brewery
3650 SW 42nd Ave
Gainesville, FL 32608

352-505-3035
Swamphead.com
Facebook.com/SwampHead

Formaggio’s Bistro & Wine Bar

Formaggio's cheese plate for two
Formaggio's cheese plate for two
Formaggio’s cheese plate for two

We were lingering after a wine tasting at Uppercrust (just yes!), and not ready to call and end to the afternoon. After a quick stop at the tabletop gaming store across the street (because we’re geeks), we went over to check out Formaggio’s on a whim. They are in Thornbrook Village directly next to Chopstix Bistro, and you get regaled with the random music on at Chopstix if you sit on the patio like we did.

Much to the staff’s credit, and maybe because we were the only ones there mid-afternoon, they helped us push three tables together and maneuver umbrellas. The patio was a bit sunny but we tend to be loud (and have interesting conversations) so outside is often best. Besides the copious amounts of sun, the music from Chopstix was weird. But it was a great day for some chilled white wine and munchie things.

Formaggio's selected itemsThe Man and I shared a salad and a cheese plate, and a bottle of Italian pinot grigio. They were kind enough to put the salad onto two smaller plates before serving. Besides some of the lettuce being significantly wilted on top, it was tasty and the right snacking size of real greens. The cheese plate for two was pretty and the strawberries were beautiful. I hugely object to orange cheese of any kind, but I suspect people expect it so they add it. (I’m sure I rant often about dumbing down food for nervous consumers who should just stick to the chain restaurants.) And of course the cheese arrived with a basket of good crackers in multiple styles, and sliced bread.

The amount of food balanced with the wine and it was a satisfying afternoon meal. Everyone else around the table seemed please with their meals and drink choices. Our friends the carnivores ordered an antipasto plate and were nomming it up happily. Probably not knock-your-socks-off amazing. Pleasantly predictable in a good way.

Part of our group had to leave but the rest of us caved and lingered over dessert. We had a piece of tiramisu which could have had more ladyfingers and less cream. And our friends shared a canolli which of course started the canolli debate because apparently there are people who don’t like the tasty dessert (what?!). So pro-tip: check out the dessert menu before you go.

Overall it was a pleasant afternoon and the service was excellent. Considering their location and expected customers, they live up to their client’s expectations. Because I’m spoiled, I expected a little more of a dangerous cheese and accouterments selection considering the price. I would totally go back and have another lazy afternoon of nibbles and wine. Maybe inside and out of the sun this time.

Formaggio’s Bistro & Wine Bar
2441 NW 43rd St Suite 12,
Gainesville Florida 32606

352-505-6202
Formaggiosbistro.com
Facebook.com/pages/Formaggios-Bistro-Wine/591997294224339

Up a River

4 Rivers Smokehouse
4 Rivers Smokehouse
4 Rivers Smokehouse

I’m not going to be grumpy about being a vegetarian dragged to a smokehouse. I knew what I was getting into, and I was going to have dinner with important friends. Not eat. So I sucked it up and met them at 4 Rivers on Archer Road.

Okay, a little grumpy. My only real option was a dinner plate meal where you choose 5 sides and a biscuit for one price. Almost all of their vegetable dishes had a meat ingredient. Usually pork. It was a stretch to find five: sweet potatoes, cole slaw, mac & cheese, baked grits, and bread pudding. Lots of starch. I splashed out and got a Cheerwine since I hadn’t ever had one before.

My grumpiness is that this place has a lot of carnivore friends super excited, and the restaurant itself is kind of elegant-country-industrial. But you walk in, grab a plastic tray (a la Taco Bell), get served your meat right on the paper liner (if that’s your thing), and your sides and drink all come in styrofoam cups except for the foil-wrapped items.

Okay… screech… Styrofoam? Yes, a huge pet peeve for all of the waste left for thousands of years. But wait. From what I hear in the industry circle is that it’s the new green Styrofoam that breaks down into powder in 2 years.

So, not as grumpy as I was initially. But seriously, for the location, price, awards, and general smoked-meat-hardons that this place boasts, it just seems so trashy to be served on disposable everything on plastic trays.

As for being a vegetarian in a strange land, I seriously hurt after this meal from all of the starch. The biscuit was dry. The sweet potato casserole was overly sweet. The cole slaw lacked seasonings but felt fresh-ish. The bread pudding was okay. I liked the mac & cheese because it felt like diner mac & cheese. And the baked grits was wrapped in foil and had a weird skin on top and a burnt layer at the bottom but tasted okay.

So basically they totally won at the thing I really hate with a lot of restaurants…they really shoot to please as many people as possible, and hold back seasoning so as not to scare anyone.

One redeeming quality was the separate dessert counter that would have been a lot of fun if I hadn’t just O.D.ed on starchy sides. I wanted some real flavor and I’m sure the sugary selections were better than the stuff in the styrofoam cups on my plastic tray.

But really, the restaurant industry is stuck with the reputation of using a super high volume of water. Yet solutions are few. Using proper dishes means washing them in a way that satisfies the health department. But using disposable serving materials means lots of trash and waste.

And jerks like me get grumpy about the cheap feeling of eating from Styrofoam and paper rather than ceramic dishes. Grump grump grump…

4 Rivers Smokehouse
3262 SW 35TH Blvd
Gainesville FL 32608

1-844-474-8377
4rsmokehouse.com

One Love Café

One Love Cafe, dinner
One Love Cafe
One Love Cafe

We decided to try One Love Café on a slightly stormy spring evening. There’s usually a group of us, which for test-driving is a bonus. It shows how staff and facility can handle a group, and we vegetarians can get the opinions of the carnivores.

Unfortunately for me, the inside space is small (it looks like a prefab industrial building was plopped down) and the large outside space had umbrellas that don’t combat spring showers particularly well. It was crowded inside and we all pushed through the counter line for our orders, and took our metal numbers outside to tables. The sprinkles turned to a not-quite-serious rain, and I was on an end so my butt and only my butt, got wet from the drips.

One Love Cafe, insideOur food arrived in shifts, which can be expected at a deli-style café where the wait staff don’t hold food so the entire table is served at once. I had to listen to The Man grouse about the sliders, and how the vegetarian versions had one fewer slider that the meat ones (the prices reflected that though), and how not all vegetarians were on a diet to lose weight.

I ordered the black bean burger, cole slaw, and mac & cheese. Plus a Swamp Head beer on tap. Around the table we had sliders, pasta dishes, sandwiches, and an assortment of drinks. And we ordered dessert afterward. The overall thoughts on the food was okay to ‘this is going to get better’. It seemed pretty spotty about some dishes being great and some being kind of boring. But ingredients were fresh and you could feel the intention was there.

The burger had flavor and was slightly messy because it was homemade instead of out of a box. The bread could have been slightly more than ‘meh’. And it would have been fun to have a more exciting sauce. The pineapple-cilantro cole slaw was a huge disappointment with almost no flavor, but it was fresh and crisp. The mac & cheese was pretty good and definitely made in house.

One Love Cafe, dinner
One Love Cafe, dinner

The staff seemed to be trying hard to keep up with the crowd, and then the rain, which flushed a lot of people into the tiny inside space. One fellow seemed to be charging around with purpose and determination (and an overly serious frown), but he was getting stuff done. And the owner herself made the trip into the rain to bring some of our food.

The venue is great with a big outdoor space that will probably be more useful for evening events or hanging out. There is a small stage and on that evening a guy was singing and playing a guitar. There is a fire pit and a variety of seating. And just beyond the cordoned off patio, there is a vast grassy area for kids and dogs (yes, dogs are welcome) to play.

I want to like One Love Café because I can see the potential here. I am rooting for them to succeed and pick up some more experience with food, expand the menu, and make the outdoor space more useful during the summer (I hear they are putting in a more permanent pavilion roof thing). The place has the feel of a well-loved business where the owners have much passion but lack some confidence or experience. There’s a lot of potential here.

So I’m going to sit back, and wait and see. I would eat there again.

They are located in the back of Magnolia Parke (don’t get me started about the extra letters on names, like shoppe). They are open for lunch on Wednesday, and lunch and dinner Thursday through Saturday, but seem like they are planning on expanding some hours/days. The menu seems to be adjusting from time to time. In fact, it’s on chalkboards inside the café, so I’m sure it’ll change a lot more.

One Love Café
4989 Northwest 40th Place
Gainesville, FL 32606

352-509-3131
OneLoveCafeinc.com
Facebook.com/onelovecafefl

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]