To celebrate National Rum Day (August 16), I’m participating in the Captain Morgan® #CaptainRumDay challenge. I was asked to create an original cocktail recipe using Captain Morgan White Rum with at least two of eight unconventional ingredients that would arrive in a special delivery.
When I opened the box, I found chocolate, bacon, sriracha, pistachios, BBQ sauce, red licorice, salsa, and potato chips. [If you don’t see the chocolate, your eyes aren’t failing you. The bar had melted in the heat, but luckily hadn’t leaked. So after it solidified at room temperature, I ate it.]
With so many flavor combination options, I didn’t know which direction I should take. I asked myself, “What would Pam like?” You see, my good friend Pam was celebrating her birthday this week, so I had been thinking about her.
Every August, she takes an extended family vacation with her daughter and grand kids at this cozy lakefront house in Michigan. Pam’s a vegetarian (mostly – except for bacon) and she really enjoys savory flavors. And while she likes dark chocolate, it’s salty and crunchy – with a little bit of spice – that is her absolute favorite.
So I selected to work with three unconventional ingredients in this Captain Morgan #CaptainRumDay original cocktail challenge: bacon, potato chips and sriracha hot sauce.
I took a slice of a Michigan peach, marinated it in some sriracha. Then I combined Captain Morgan white rum with light cran-raspberry juice and a splash of light orange juice over ice in a shaker.
After pouring the cocktail in a martini glass, I dredged the peach slice in crushed potato chips and wrapped it in a slice of bacon. The perfect savory, salty and spicy garnish for a summery smooth drink.
And I’ve named it Pam’s Summer Escape in honor of my friend, Pam. Cheers!
Disclosure: I was given a free sample of Captain Morgan® White Rum and eight unconventional ingredients for use in this challenge. I get no additional benefits for talking about this product or company. All opinions about this product are 100% my own.
Everybunny needs a little extra help and a fresh take in the kitchen when it comes to getting ready for family holiday gatherings, like Easter.
Honestly, I get bored with “traditional Easter” menus. I don’t love ham and I prefer my eggs scrambled or omeletted (yes, that’s a word in my world). Many of the traditional Easter foods I grew up with I just don’t care for as an adult. But that’s not to say that I don’t like to cook with many of the ingredients found in these dishes. I’m simply challenged to find a way to incorporate those ingredients in ways that will excite my palate – and those of the 23 members of my immediate family when we get together for an Easter brunch. [Yes, when the ENTIRE family gets together we have that many in the immediate family, not counting pets!]
So I accepted a challenge to use three varieties of KRAFT #FreshTake Cheese & Breadcrumb mixes to create side dishes for Easter brunch on this #shop for #Collective Bias. But I knew I had to get some help from some bunnies (actually, they’re apricot-fawn pugs) named Baxter and Bing. They are rescues and the MOST FOOD OBSESSED DOGS my vet and dog trainer have ever seen! That’s probably why the universe put us together. Their help in deciding on what to make for an Easter brunch menu is (almost) always invaluable.
Now Baxter and Bing don’t actually help prep any food (I thought I should call that out, as I’ve been told I’m somewhat obsessive when it comes to my dogs). But Bing (the father) and Baxter (the son) may occasionally taste test an ingredient as I cook.
Bing and Baxter aren’t very vocal, unlike their constantly-barking-at-the-wind black pug sisters, Della and Marlo. [Della and Marlo aren’t yet 2 years old, so they’re too young to help out much in the kitchen for now.] But Bing and Baxter can communicate “the world” with a single look, so I pay close attention to their eyes when we “collaborate” on what to make. We “conferred” and decided on using three varieties of KRAFT Fresh Take Cheese & Breadcrumb mixes for our Easter brunch menu:
#FreshTake Italian Parmesan Hasselback Potatoes [Sweden’s version of baked potatoes]
#FreshTake Southwest Three Cheese Stuffed Peppers [hearty enough to be a satisfying entrée on its own]
#FreshTake Cheddar Jack with Bacon Deviled Egg Cups [a modern take on a traditional app]
So it was off to my local Walmart to get the ingredients. You’ll find KRAFT Fresh Take in the refrigerated cheese aisle.
For a limited time, you can save $1.00 on the purchase of any KRAFT Fresh Take Cheese & Breadcrumb Mix and fresh chicken at Walmart. Get your $1.00 coupon here.
If you’ve read Baked Chicago before, you may know that I’ve never met a potato I didn’t like. And while I love a good baked potato, it can be kinda boring to serve for a special occasion. But not Hasselback Potatoes, which are Sweden’s version of baked potatoes. They were made popular by the restaurant inside the Hasselbacken Hotel in Stockholm that created the dish.
By using a simple cutting technique (which also helps the potatoes to cook faster) and adding some simple ingredients inside or atop the potatoes while they bake, you have a simply elegant – and unbelievably delicious – potato dish that everyone is going to gobble down at the Easter table. [I guess that’s a better description for the Thanksgiving table, but you know what I mean.]
This dish would also be something that you could cook to impress someone, like a first date, because they look like they would be difficult to make. But they’re not. It’s all in the presentation, and (from where I sit) there’s no need to let them know just how easy it was!
During the cooking process, the potato start to fan out – making for a beautiful presentation on the plate.
Hasselback Potatoes with KRAFT Fresh Take Cheese & Breadcrumb Mix
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 6 servings
18 small Yukon Gold potatoes (about 3 pounds), peeled
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 package KRAFT Fresh Take Cheese & Breadcrumb Mix, Italian Parmesan Recipe
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and ground black pepper, for seasoning
Preheat your oven to 400 F degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
Place peeled potatoes on a cutting board. Cut a narrow slice from the bottom of each potato to help the potato lie flat; discard the slice.
Place one wooden chopstick (2 total) on each side of the potato, lengthwise. Use a knife to slice each potato crosswise making slices about 1/4-inch apart for the length of the potato. The chopsticks will prevent the knife from cutting through the bottom of the potato. You want to leave about 1/4-inch on the bottom of the potato intact.
After cutting the potatoes, gently rinse them to rid excess starch which can impede fanning. Carefully flex the potatoes while rinsing under cold running water. Dry the potatoes well before baking.
Place the contents of the entire KRAFT Fresh Take Italian Parmesan package in a food processor, along with olive oil. Pulse until well blended.
Brush the potatoes with melted butter. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Pat the prepared KRAFT Fresh Take cheese & breadcrumb mixture on top of each potato.
Place potatoes onto the prepared baking sheet. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until they turn crispy and are fork-tender.
Hasselback potatoes are also known as the Swedish version of baked potatoes, popularized by the restaurant at the Hasselbacken Hotel in Stockholm, Sweden. As the potatoes bake, the slices fan out slightly - making for an elegant presentation.
The next dish I made was a slow cooker version of stuffed peppers. Many cooks use green bell peppers, but I personally think the vibrant colors of the orange, yellow and red bell peppers are much more visually appealing. As a kid, I hated most green vegetables. While my palate grew up, my eyes still find the same green of most vegetables to be quite dull.
Go veggie! You can also turn this into a vegetarian dish by simply eliminating the ground turkey.
What I love best about this recipe is that it’s another slow cooker home run. I have [undiagnosed] adult ADD. So anytime I can put something into the slow cooker and forget it for a few hours, I am so HOPPY…I mean HAPPY!
6 large bell peppers, tops removed and seeded
1 pound ground turkey, browned and crumbled
10 ounces frozen kernel corn
15 ounces black beans, drained and rinsed
14.5 ounces diced tomatoes
1/4 cup chunky salsa
1/4 cup chopped onions
1 cup brown rice, cooked
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 package KRAFT Fresh Take Southwest Three Cheese & Breadcrumbs
In a skillet, cook the ground turkey until browned. Crumble it as you stir. Set aside. Cook the brown rice according to package directions. Set aside. Cut off the tops of each pepper, then core and remove seeds, membranes. Rinse out with cold water. If needed, slice off any uneven portion of the bottoms of each pepper in order for them to lie flat. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the ground turkey, corn, black beans, diced tomatoes, salsa, onions, brown rice and Worcestershire sauce until blended. Stuff peppers with mixture and top with KRAFT Fresh Take cheese & breadcrumbs. Stand peppers in a slow cooker. Add 1/2 cup water in the bottom and cover. Cook on low for 6 hours (or on HIGH for 3 hours), or until peppers are tender. Makes 6 servings.
Deviled Egg Cups
The final recipe for my Easter brunch is a twist on deviled eggs. I have always liked the taste of deviled eggs, but I’m not a fan of the rubbery texture that hard-boiled egg whites can sometimes have. Deviled egg cups use phyllo dough for the vessel, so it adds a nice crunchy texture that I find irresistible.
And the filling couldn’t be easier. You essentially puree the hard-boiled eggs (yolks and whites!) and mix in the rest of the ingredients. Then pipe the filling into the phyllo shells and you’ve got a somewhat fancy appetizer that is great for a large gathering.
But don’t forget to garnish with thick-cut bacon. That’s Bing and Baxter’s tip, because they love anything topped with bacon. And I concur.
30 (2 boxes) frozen mini phyllo shells
6 hard-boiled large eggs, peeled
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 package KRAFT Fresh Take Cheddar Jack with Bacon Cheese & Breadcrumbs
5 slices thick-cut bacon, crispy and chopped, for garnish
Preheat your oven to 350 F degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the phyllo shells on baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes. Let cool.
In food processor, puree eggs, mayonnaise, lemon juice, pepper, salt and contents of Fresh Take Cheddar Jack with Bacon. Put egg mixture in a resealable plastic bag, cut off tip and pipe into shells.
Garnish with chopped bacon and serve at room temperature. Makes 30 deviled egg cups.
Finally, Some Fun For The Kids
I hope you found some inspiration in these recipes as you prepare your Easter menu. Whether you’re cooking for yourself or for a super-humongous group, make it easy on the chef! Simple can also be delicious and a crowd-pleaser. What’s going to be on your Easter menu this year? Share your comments below.
Dig out the plastic eggs from the basement or attic and get ready for some marathon Easter egg hunts! [For those with kids under age 6, you know what I mean. I have 13 nieces and nephews, of which 8 are under 10 years old. So I’ve hosted my share of egg-citing – and unending – egg hunts. Just don’t forget where you put the eggs. Seriously. Don’t forget.]
Many of my nieces and nephews have iPads and hand-held electronic games, so anything as “manual” as an Easter egg hunt may see alien to them as they get into their teens. I remember as a younger kid that I loved to color with crayons and do word games/puzzles, so I wanted to share with you an Easter coloring page and maze puzzle (both are downloadable PDFs) that you can share.
Who knows? It might just buy you 10 minutes of uninterrupted time in the kitchen. And for that, you’ll thank me!
Last weekend was National Margarita Day. Did you miss it? I was all set to enjoy some great margarita recipes from some of Chicago’s hottest bars, like a Salted Caramel Margarita from The Underground. But all the margarita madness got me hungry for some Mexican-inspired cooking, which led to some serious salsa experimentation in the kitchen.
The best outcome was a Fiesta Mexi Turkey Meatloaf. In addition to brown rice, which I use instead of bread crumbs, I added crushed tortilla chips. Such. Crunchy. Goodness. And the salsa in the meatloaf, along with the salsa on the meatloaf, is a perfect pairing with a strong, ice cold margarita. Now that’s inspired Mexican cuisine!