Memorial Day Steak Kebabs

We learned the hard way last year that if you don’t buy meat and goods before the Memorial Day weekend then you are out of luck. BBQ’s are extremely popular for this holiday weekend especially as people enjoy the many festivities occurring down town for our annual Glassfest . So this year I thought ahead and got all my meats  in advanced. (see last year’s post on glassfest)


Two Saturday’s ago I bought a chuck roast then cut it up into good sized chunks  because they shrink up when cooked.Then I placed all in a gallon size plastic bag and pulled out the marinade fixings. I didn’t portion/measure things  but I can tell what was included: soy sauce, worshiher sauce, sirachia, and a little orange juice. Adding the orange juice may seem odd to you but if you ever have had fajitas then you’d may be surprised to know that most fajita meat is usually marinaded in a good portion of orange juice. The orange juice adds the citrus and sugars that help break down and tenderize the meat as well as flavor it. Then I added the spices; a little cumin, garlic, and of course salt and pepper.


The longer you let the marinade the sit the better the flavor. I put the plastic bag in the fridge in a bowl, so that in case there is a leak it doesn’t get all over the fridge. Each time I went to get anything out of the fridge I took the bag and swish the meat and marinade around and flip over the bag in the bowl.


When it’s time to make the kebabs we chopped up  our veggies (remember both the meat and veggies shrink on the grill). We usually use green peppers, onions, sometimes grape tomatoes or mushroom. We took tin foil and wrapped it around cooking sheets; took the bag of marinade meat, bowls of cut veggies, then layered up the skewers according to personal preference.  Luke always does an all meat one to which I feel compelled to balance with an all veggie one.

We’ve done kebabs with friends several times; it’s great if people are willing to get their hands a little messy. Everyone can combine whatever amounts of meat to veggie ratio (or types of veggies they like).


I usually serve this all up Mediterranean style with a salad of grape tomatoes, cucumber, and light olive oil/lemon sauce this year I chose to do a yogurt cucumber salad. I combined a 1C of greek yogurt with olive oil, lemon juice, dill, and a little salt/pepper to chopped chunks of three large cucumbers.


And that’s was our Memorial day Steak Kebab meal! We ate it out on our front porch;first time for the summer.

So what do you BBQ up for Memorial day?

Do you stick to the classics; hot dogs and hamburgers or do something unique?

Wine tasting in Ellicottville

This past Sunday we decided to use one of our saved-up groupons and drive out to Ellicottville for wine tasting. If you remember last August we explored Ellicottville for the first time with one of Luke’s co-workers and his wife. What drew us to this ski-town two hours West of us was their annual taste of Ellicottville (for more on this see Taste of Ellicottville). While there we got a chance to check out their local brewery as well as taste some wine at their Winery of Ellicottville’s (EVL for short) store front. So when we saw a groupon for a wine tasting, tour, and cheese plate from two at EVL we thought it’d be an amazing date.


The drive to Ellicottville is beautiful, especially this time of year as everything has finally turned bright green. We arrived in town and headed straight to the Winery of Ellicottville storefront just on time for our reservation. EVL  is ran by Dominic Spicola and his family. For the past four years they have been experimenting and creating unique and popular wines which of course sell well in the ski-town.


The EVL storefront’s main wall serves as a long wood bar. It is here that we started our tour tasting more than 6 different EVL wines between the two of us. Dominic’s wife guided us through their options; we began with their light whites then moved to reds, ending with dessert wines. Our favorite picks? their Vidal was good; bright and citrusy; Luke also enjoyed their Noriet; a peppery dry red. We also tried their dessert berry wines Luke found the blueberry  to be too sweet but I enjoyed the red raspberry which was sweet with a good tart kick at the end.


After trying their variety we were taken to view their wine-making process done in a second separate room attached to their main storefront. We were told that they buy a variety of grapes from neighboring wineries,  rent a local wineries’ grape press to turn their grapes into juice, then drive the juice back to their storefront where they pump it into their processing vats straight from the street.


After a few other basic questions about the process; we came back out to the storefront and were given our cheese plate featuring local cheeses . We enjoyed the cheeses and garlic stuffed olives with glasses of white wine; a Riesling and a white blend called Franseco’s Reserve . We both were surprised to enjoy the Riesling even more than the Vidal from earlier. Once we were done snacking we were given our groupon goodies: two wine glasses with their wine label on them, and one wine from their selection valued up to $20; we picked up their red raspberry dessert wine and in addition bought a bottle of Riesling.


We looked at the time and decided to drive to the cheese shop in Cuba. Again if you remember last summer on our way back from the taste of Ellicottville event we stopped in a little town we would have never noticed on our own called Cuba specifically for their cheese shop. About an hour East from Ellicottville this cheese shop provides their own cheeses, other local NY and PA creameries goods, and specialty international cheeses. In addition to the large array of cheeses they also sell local maple goods, pickled vegetables, jams, butters, and jellies and curried meats.


After sampling a few cheeses we ended up leaving with some of Luke’s favorites: a local smoked gouda, a brie blue cheese, and one we had last time and loved; extra hot horseradish. On our way to the cashier we also found a creamy strong cheese in the discounted section we thought we’d try.


Overall it was a great Sunday date. We left with full stomachs and came home with plenty of local cheeses and wine. In fact, on Tuesday Luke had a rare lunch hour at home. We enjoyed apples, crackers, and local cheeses together; the perfect light summer lunch and a great option for some upcoming picnics.

Have you explored any local goods or foods recently?

Bread of the Month: Pan Dulce

Last Monday was Cinco de Mayo which isn’t a huge holiday here in New York but is pretty well celebrated in my home state of California. I usually do not celebrate it myself other than choosing to eat Mexican food for dinner that night. So I was somewhat surprised we were invited to a Cinco de Mayo party here in Corning. I say somewhat because the couple hosting the party moved here from San Diego (yes there are fellow native Californians here but not many). They decided they were craving some carne and pollo asada and had bags of it marinating flown in to our East Coast town to cook-up and serve with tortillas and fresh guacamole.


I thought through what I could contribute to this rare East Coast/West Coast clash event and since avocados aren’t cheap I thought I’d try making Pan Dulce (aka in Spanish sweet bread) also called Mexican Morning/Breakfast Bread or Conchas. I grew up seeing these little bread rolls being sold in the windows of many of the taquerias in my hometown. Round and yellowish on the inside the top of each roll is colorfully decorated with a flour/sugar coating in a decorative shape such as a seashell or corn. These come in different flavors: chocolate, cinnamon, strawberry, or vanilla each easily distinguished by the color of the sweet sugar on top.


I found a recipe for Pan Dulce in my trusty Bread Bible and made a few adjustments based on making this a dessert bread and not a morning breakfast bread (although some were eaten for breakfasts). I ended up making a double batch from what I’m listing below which made about 32 buns/rolls. We took at least 25 of those 32 to the park with us for the party and all of them were gone by the time we left.


I started by combining 2/3 C milk, 5 eggs, vanilla, 1 C sugar, salt, and 2 C of flour mixing them in my wonderful blue Kitchen Aid mixer. Then I added the yeast when proofed. Once the mixture was smooth I added in the cut up butter pieces about 3/4ths of a stick.


Next I slowly added in the remaining flour about 4 more cups give or take a cup or so at a time while mixing it all together on a low speed on my mixer.


Once it formed into dough it had a slightly yellow color (from all the eggs) and was a little soft but springy. I took the dough out of the mixing bowl and hand kneaded it a little on a floured surface.


Then I placed the dough in two greased deep containers ( I split my double batch in half)  then covered it with plastic wrap and let it rise for an hour and a half  at room temp..


While waiting on the dough I made the sugar topping. Of the whole process this was what I found most difficult. The recipe called for making the  powdered sugar, flour, butter, vanilla, and egg into  a crumbly mixture. It found it to be a little tougher than they probably wanted and decided to add more butter to make a more malleable texture. I split the mixture in two and added 2 TBS of cocoa powder to one and 1 TBS cinnamon to the other.


Once the dough rose I formed half of it into 3 inch balls/rolls then taking egg white I had beaten and put aside I glazed the top of the roll with the egg yolk then using a tablespoon I scooped out 1TBS of the cocoa sugar topping onto the roll and pressed it on and in. I did the same with the other half of the dough using the cinnamon sugar. Then I left the rolls to rise for 20 minutes once again covered with plastic wrap.


After this I cut (as much as I could) a design into the top sugar coating using a sharp knife then re-brushed each roll with egg yolk again before sticking the rolls in the oven. The rolls expanded quite a bit in the oven so the small cracks I made in the sugar topping created deep cracks in the coating once baked.


They turned out tasting great, even if the top sugar coating designs did not seem as appealing as the ones I grew up with. No matter what they tasted great and were well received as the only “authentic” dessert option. And the few that we kept at home were gone in less than a week.

Do you celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

If so what is your favorite holiday food/treat?


Shrimp and Avocado Salad: a light summer meal

In looking forward to warmer weather and summer activities I realized it was time to change up our dinner menu. With more sunshine and exercise it is high time to exchange the heavier oven and crock-pot meals for BBQs and salads; high in protein and veggies and low in carbs. My husband had mentioned recently that a couple times a week he wouldn’t mind getting a salad instead of a sandwich for lunch. As we talked about our favorite salad combinations I realized it was time to try out some new salads for dinner.

Which led to this: Shrimp and Avocado Salad



3-4 medium tomatoes

3 bell peppers

3 medium yellow onions

1/4 C lemon/lime juice

1/4 C olive oil

salt, pepper, garlic to taste

1 bag of precooked and shelled medium shrimp (about 24 oz)

2/3 small/medium ripe avocados

2 Cs raw baby spinach

Balsamic vinaigrette or your favorite salad dressing


1. I started with my basic pico de gallo recipe (see homemade pico de gallo).


2.  While cutting the veggies for the pico de gallo, I put the frozen bag of precooked shrimp in a medium pan with a little olive oil, butter, (about 1 TBs each) and garlic powder (about 1/2tsp).


3. Once the shrimp were defrosted and had soaked up  the oils I took them off the heat. After they cooled down (still a little warm) I carefully pulled out the tails. This didn’t take too long to do and the more I pulled the easier and quicker it became. But if you are opposed to this you can find smaller shrimp frozen where this is done for you. Then I placed the shrimp in the pico de gallo mixture and combined.



4. Next I took the ripe avocados and cut them into square slices placing all in the bowl. With avocado if you want chunks make sure that your avocado is not overripe or is may be mushy and cutting slices/chunks will be difficult. Or if you want a creamy avocado dressing to form you can stir the salad up with over ripe/mushy avocados.


Note: You can make the salad creamier to help cut the citrus by adding sour cream or greek yogurt (about 1/4 or 1/8 C) or combining overripe avocado with the cream.

5. Then I added a little more seasoning, lemon juice, and olive oil and covered the mixture with tin foil putting the bowl in the fridge to chill until dinner.

7. This combination in and of itself is a great salad, appetizer with tortilla chips, or filler for quesadillas or tacos. We chose for dinner to lay-down a bed of baby spinach, then some balsamic vinaigrette (although you can use any of your favorite dressings) and some mozzarella cheese (because we didn’t put cream in the shrimp salad mixture) then place the shrimp and avocado salad on top.


It tasted great! It was the perfect combination of sweet, savory, and creamy, with enough protein for a light but filling dinner.

So what’s your favorite salad combination?

Looking Back: Easter

I realize it has been several weeks since Easter but as I have mentioned before the pre and post Easter weeks were crazy busy.  For those of you looking for an update here you go:

Thursday before Easter when Luke got off work we quickly got our belongings together and headed to church for a pizza dinner (I had made pasta: see food on the run: spinach mushroom pasta) and prepared for our third Easter preformance. We thought this night would be the least crowded; we were wrong. It was packed so full that our Pastor asked if any one would be willing to give up their seats to come back on Friday. On Friday we repeated the process: Luke got off work and we headed to church for two more performances; both also packed. I have to say it was exciting to see that Disneyland size line waiting to be seated wrapped around the church. By Saturday we were exhausted. Although we had enjoyed participating in the Easter production we were ready for a break from people. That evening we enjoyed grilled hamburgers and corn on the cob; something I haven’t had in months and Luke had been craving for weeks; our first real spring meal.

On Easter we had my homemade hot crossed buns (see hot cross buns) then went to church and came home to rest. We changed into comfortable clothes then went to Market Street to grab some coffee and walk around the half-deserted street looking at closed shops in the sunshine. We came home and I made a new special spring dish: asparagus parmesan risotto.  It was delicious. We enjoyed white wine and catching up on TV shows. For dessert we shared two pints of Ben and Jerry’s: our first time ever buying a container of ice cream since we’ve been married.

Overall it was relaxing but as anyone who has moved away from family knows it’s also hard. Easter has always been significant to me personally but is often the one holiday I am not near family. College spring breaks never fell near Easter and rarely does anyone have time off (in America) to travel back to be with family for Easter.

Luke and I have not yet discovered what Easter traditions look like for us as a couple.  We know how to easily create food traditions since we enjoy baking and cooking but past that most Easter traditions focus around family meals and the younger ones. Even at Christmas time it is easier to find non-food or children oriented activities.

But our church does not host a easter egg hunt so we had no reason to die eggs or fill plastic ones with candy . Where we live family is central and key, stores shut down on holidays and everyone is celebrating together. Although Luke and I are our own family unit it is hard to find activities for just the two of us.

Living in suburbs of larger cities (near LA and in college near Seattle) it was easy to find fellow single or married people who lived/work away from family. On holidays these people tend to  act like a temporary distant (even if dysfunctional) family. But that type of network does not exist here in Corning.

Now I’m not saying any of this to receive pity or concern especially from my family. But one of my aims for this blog is to share my personal experiences transitioning and adjusting to married life away from family. Let me be clear that I am not worried, this is only our second Easter married and we did attempt new holiday activities.

I also know that traditions change with time and  locations. We are creative people-we will figure it out. But this is where I ask for input from my readers:

Any of you single and or  DINKs (double income no kids) live away from family?

How do you find,  keep, or create traditions for Easter?

Bread of the Month: Whole Wheat Zucchini

Yes I am aware it’s the beginning of May. But it was not until this week that life slowed down enough for me to want to pick up my hobbies again. So I know I am  once again due to give you a life update and that this post is way overdue but here it is: this is my contribution for April’s Bread of the Month.

In the past when Luke had work breakfasts I used to go to my wide selection of muffin recipes and bake one (as you have seen in past posts). But recently I have gotten tired of putting in the work of lining each muffin tin or buttering/greasing the pans then cleaning the baked on crevices after. For more info on this see my post: Living without a dishwasher.

So  instead I decided to try switched to making breakfast breads. They are less of mess to make and clean and just as quickly eaten up.   The great thing about breakfast breads also is that if you have carrots, zucchini, bananas, apples, lemons etc. around the house it’s easy to mash, shred, or cut it up to put in an oven baked bread. Unlike other yeasted breads breakfast breads/loafs,  just like muffins, are very moist but quick to throw together with no waiting time. (I’ll fill you in on a secret; breakfast breads/loafs are really muffins in disguise or vice versa depending on how you see it).

I had two zucchini’s leftover in my fridge from a recent dinner and decided they would make a great spring breakfast bread. I went to my every-handy Bread Bible and found a great recipe:


Instead of greasing one 9 by 4 inch pan I chose to butter and flour much smaller pan for us to have a nice mini-loaf to keep and eat at home and one of my 9 by 4 inch pans for Luke to take to work (I just didn’t fill the 9 by 4 inch pan as full). I preheated the oven to 350F then used one of my favorite toys eh . . tools: my kitchen aid mixer. I placed our shredder/grater attachment on and quickly and easily shredded both zucchini’s.  I then took some paper towels to the shredded zucchini to absorb the moisture leaving only the zucchini “meat”.


Next I combined the wet ingredients: 1/4 cup vegetable oil with 1 1/2 C sugar. If you want to make this recipe more healthy you can choose to replace the sugar with honey  or brown sugar of equal amount.  Once the sugar and oil were incorporated I added three large eggs and 2 tsp of vanilla extract. After this was well blended I added the grated zucchini.


In a separate bowl I combined the dry ingredients: 2 C unbleached flour: the original recipe was not whole wheat I used half whole wheat flour and half regular flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt, and I added more ground cinnamon and cloves then the recipe called for 2 tsp each. If you want to spice up your bread even more you can add 1 tsp nutmeg and or 1 tsp ginger as well.


The original recipe at this point also called for adding 1 C of walnuts or raisins neither of which I chose to include. Instead I added 1/2 C more zucchini then the original recipe called for (originally 2 C shredded). Then I combined the wet and dry ingredients.

It may not look appetizing but it sure tasted great!

Last of all, the easy part: spooning the batter into the pans and placing them into the oven. My loafs only took about 50-60 minutes for the top sto be firm and the toothpick to come out clean. The smaller one I think I took out at 50 minutes and the larger one five to ten minutes later.

The original recipe called for a brandy or congnac glaze but since this bread was made for a breakfast instead of  a dessert or snack I decided to go without it.  As with most breads and baked goods with baking powder in them, the flavor is better after they have been stored in plastic wrap and cooled/refrigerated overnight.

The bread tasted great; just enough sugar to balance out the veggies but not so much that if felt like dessert for breakfast. From now on I think I will do breakfast breads (with a mini-loaf for us to share at home) instead of muffins. At least for now.

What about you?

What is you favorite baked breakfast good?