Posts tagged " snacks "

tough cookie episode 7 with debbie of paleo eats bars

Tough Cookie Podcast – Episode 7 – Debbie with Paleo Eats and eating for life long health

May 24th, 2017 Posted by Podcast Episodes No Comment yet

Debbie Fred, creator and owner of the Paleo Eats Energy Bar joins me on the seventh episode of Tough Cookie Podcast and we talk about having passion for what you do, what Paleo means, and breaking into the “bar” business with no prior experience (hint: it takes passion!)


honey butter popcorn - pickle jar studios

Salt & Pepper Honey Butter Popcorn 

July 9th, 2016 Posted by Gluten-Free, Kitchen Tools, Snacks, Sweet Sundays No Comment yet

I guess I’m a traditional girl in disguise.

If you look at my life (living with my boyfriend/fiance, not married yet and no near wedding plans, went back to school as an adult) I would not really look I am into rules, order or tradition. I think I’ve just realized that I am happy to figure it out, whatever it looks like. 


Pico de Gallo and learning to cook

August 22nd, 2015 Posted by Appetizers, Snacks 1 comment

pico de gallo, a beginner recipe

I think the turning point for my relationship with cooking was in college. I get asked this question a lot, and it’s something I’ve thought about carefully. I used to make cookies and brownies with my mom growing up, lick the beaters or the bowl and play with her pots and pans. But that was when I was 4 and 5. There was a departure from the kitchen, for me, between about 7 and 15. I think I always loved food and eating, but then again, who doesn’t? I don’t especially remember liking to make cookies when I was 13 and reading Cosmo Girl, searching for the perfect nail polish and taking quizzes about what my style was. No, cooking and I didn’t really get along again until about 18 or 19. I was in college, living at a girls co-op at Oregon State University, and eating most meals out of the kitchen at Azalea House.* 

The cook at Azalea, or AZA as we called it, while I was there was named Kevin. He was a man probably in his 30’s (this was 2002 or ’03), with a booming voice that traveled through the small kitchen and out to the dining room. So many times I padded across that room to get something from the kitchen in the afternoon and could hear the voice of Kevin, long before entering the kitchen, chatting with someone, but it sounded more like a one-sided conversation. It is things like this that were a comfort to me in a way, when being away from home for the first time. Being on your own at 18 doesn’t feel so strange when you are in a house full of 50 girls and a guy like Kevin you could talk to like a big brother. 

The dining room was really a white tiled room with a row of 6 foot by 2 foot tables put in a row down the left side. The front of the dining room, near a bank of windows, was where the food went, buffet style. When the food was put out, at 5pm every evening, is when Kevin’s work day would end. I don’t think I thought too much about the food beyond: me. hungry. brain. need food. But one night there was this salsa. I couldn’t stop eating it. I got seconds and thirds. The thought that kept going through my head was, what if I never have this again? I HAVE to know how to make it. I HAVE to eat this again. And that was it. 

That’s where my love affair with cooking started.

The next morning I begged Kevin for the recipe. “It’s called Pico de Gallo” He said. He was pretty free with this recipes, but I don’t think very many girls asked him for them. So he told me the basics and I scribbled them down on a piece of paper. That weekend I went home and made the salsa for my family. I, again, couldn’t stop eating it. I think my parents were happy to have something made for them, but probably have eaten pico de gallo before. I was mesmerized. I couldn’t believe that I could make these flavors with just produce, and that the only thing standing in my way was a bunch of chopping. It was from there, that I started. I made more things, I discovered what I liked to eat and how it was made. I moved out of AZA in 2004, and in 2005 I was living in a small house off-campus with two other girls (who also lived in AZA with me). It was while living in the house that I really got the cooking bug. I started watching Food Network, reading Real Simple and cooking whatever meal they deemed “simple for a weeknight” and becoming obsessed with Martha Stewart.

It’s really funny, what one salsa can do to change the course of your life. 

Through all that has happened, I never forgot about Kevin. He was a sounding board, a guy you could vent to, tell your problems to, commiserate with, and get advice from. He knew us. He could tell when something wasn’t right or when something had gone SO right we were beaming. Kevin probably got a little more then he bargained for when he took on AZA, but we were lucky to have him. And I am lucky to have this recipe. It brings me back to my roots and reminds me why I do this. For the love of food. 

So, the recipe is simple. I think you could even just throw everything in to a bowl and lightly toss it and it would turn out as good as that day in the dining room. But here I’ll offer you a little more instruction then that. 

Make the dressing: 

Mix lime juice, chopped cilantro, chopped jalepenos, serrano, garlic and cumin.

pico de gallo-2

Add chopped tomato, onion, pineapple and gently toss. 

pico de gallo-4

This is so great for a big crowd! 

pico de gallo-13

*Azalea, or AZA, has since shut down. But many of the girls and the old cook, Kevin, still keep in touch through Facebook. 

Pico de Gallo
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 6 cups
  • 1 small jalepeno, seeded and minced
  • 1 serrano, seeded and minced
  • 2 limes
  • Pinch or two of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 minced garlic clove, minced
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 5-6 medium sized tomatoes, diced into 1/2” pieces
  • 1/2 a fresh pineapple, cored and chopped into 1/2” pieces
  • 1/2 cup red onion, chopped
  1. In a large bowl, combine the jalepeno, serrano, juice of the two limes, salt, cumin, garlic and cilantro. Mix to combine.
  2. Add the pineapple, tomatoes and red onion. Toss everything together and serve with lots of chips.
  3. This is also great over chicken or fish tacos.

Good ol’ AZA: 



More info and an article about the co-ops at OSU and their closing: Gazette Times

Avocado Snack with Chili Sauce and Ak-mak Crackers

June 11th, 2015 Posted by Snacks No Comment yet

avocado snack

With freelancing and working from home, you’d think I have time for lunch. Actually, most days go by too fast, with a to-do list that is longer then I can accomplish and chores stacking up around me faster then I can tackle them. You’ve been there, right? 

I often will launch head first into a day full of food photography shoots, design work, or house projects that are somewhat spontaneous or start innocently enough. “Oh, I’ll just make some almond milk real quick” or “Oooh I should get that bread going before it gets too late in the day” and suddenly it’s 3pm, I haven’t eaten lunch or showered (this real life is not glamorous) and I’m running around with pie dough on my hands and flour on my face. It happens. When the day gets away from me and I need something to eat that takes two seconds to make, I reach for this easy and healthy snack. 

It’s so simple, I can make it in between dough rising and doing the dishes… because there are a lot of those around here too. And usually, let’s be real, I eat it standing up in my kitchen over the sink.

Here’s what it is:

Acovados! I try to keep one or two around in the event of an emergency such as this. Just halve it, remove the pit and slice it into chunks while still in the peel.

avocado snack with crackers and chili paste

Ak-mak crackers. I’ve only really seen these at Trader Joes, and they are usually less then $2.00 a box, but I’m sure they are available other places too. Check the ethnic food section of your grocery store. If you can’t find Ak-mak, try another whole wheat flatbread style cracker. 

avocado snack with crackers and chili paste-2

Sweet chili sauce. This, along with a couple green onions sliced up, is my favorite topping for brown rice. Sriracha would be excellent too if you want more heat and less sweet! I put some in a squeeze bottle here to “control the flow” of the sauce on my avocado. 

avocado snack with crackers and chili paste

Remember those little slices you put in the avocado halves? Here’s where you take a piece of cracker, and with the edge of it, dig into the avocado and scoop it out, getting some sauce on it along the way.

avocado snack with crackers and chili paste-6

Now eat up! You’re probably starving!

avocado snack with crackers and chili paste

Avocado Snack with Chili Sauce and Akman Crackers
Recipe Type: Snack
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 1 snack
  • 1 ripe organic avocado
  • 4-6 Ak-mak crackers, or other similar flatbread cracker
  • 2 tablespoons sweet chili paste or sriracha
  1. Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit, leaving the flesh of the avocado in the peel.
  2. With a pairing knike, slice the avocado into a diamond pattern while it’s still contained in the peel.
  3. Drizzle the sweet chili sauce on the avocado.
  4. With the edge of a cracker, dig in to the avocado where the flesh meets the peel and scoop out a bite using the cracker.
  5. Enjoy over the sink if you are in a hurry.


Honeyed Rosemary Ricotta Dip and some bee news

April 27th, 2015 Posted by Appetizers, Happy Hour at Home, Snacks No Comment yet

ricotta rosemary honey dip

This dip is so simple and comes together in minutes. It’s great for a last minute appetizer or to take to a backyard cookout. My friend bought the stuff to make this dip, came over, and made it while I opened the wine – THAT is how easy and fast this dip is. It’s herby, it’s peppery, and it’s a little sweet, so bread or even seeded crackers. 

All you do is chop up some fresh rosemary. We have some in the garden going right now. It grows everywhere here in Oregon, and it overwinters well too. 

I added some pink sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. 

happy hour at home ricotta rosemary honey dip

happy hour at home ricotta rosemary honey dip

I’m a little obsessive about my honey. I like it raw and unfiltered. My favorite honey right now is Heavenly Honey. But Hanna’s Honey is also really good! The biggest thing about honey is to find raw honey and to buy it locally. You’ll get the best flavor, support the bees, and it will be the best for you. Raw honey has a deep and rich flavor-nothing like the filtered and heated commercial honey. I have also had good luck finding lovely honey at the Corvallis Brew Supply store. Yup, that’s right! Beer brewers and mead makers use honey all the time, and I just purchased 3 pounds for less then 14 bucks! Plus they sell it in Mason jars. I’m powerless to anything sold in a Mason jar. Their honey comes from Corvallis too, from the Queen Bee Honey Company. If you are looking to use honey to aid you in summer allergies, be sure to use a local honey. It will contain more of the pollen that come from your area, which means you’ll have a greater chance in combating those seasonal summer allergies.  

Using raw honey isn’t only good for you, but in case you haven’t heard, the bees need our help, folks! They are still in danger and reducing in numbers. This week, Whole Foods shared an article on Fast.Co that basically said, without changes, our salad bar would look like this

So what can we do as cooks, as bakers, as eaters? Here’s some simple ways to help the bees. Whole Foods also has some awesome (and way cute) materials about bees and other pollinators.

But hey, this is happy hour, right!? Let’s get on with the eating. 

So this dip is ready to get mixed up and served! I have it here with a crusty baguette, but crackers or even pita chips are delicious too. 

happy hour at home ricotta rosemary honey dip


Looking for the cocktail that goes with this recipe!? You’ll find it here: Grapefruit White Wine Spritzer

Honeyed Rosemary Ricotta Dip and some bee news
Recipe Type: Dip, Appetizer, Happy Hour at Home
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 2 cups
  • 1-15 oz container ricotta cheese, part-skim or whole
  • 4 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, chopped fine
  • 3 tablespoons raw, local honey
  • 1/2 tsp pink himalayan salt, or kosher salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper (or more, to taste)
  1. Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl. Transfer to a serving platter or bowl, and serve with sliced bread or crackers. This dip would also be excellent with fresh figs, peaches, or plums.



Blue scarf, vintage, Oscar de la Renta

Stoneware bowl, vintage, Robinson Ransbottom (RRP) Roseville Ohio, Blue Band pattern 

If you want to know more about why you should use raw honey, check out this article

Have leftover ricotta? Try these ricotta orange pancakes. So rich! Perfect for Saturday morning, or a breakfast for dinner night. 

Bresaola with the “right kind” of wine

April 17th, 2015 Posted by Appetizers, Bread, Drinks, Happy Hour at Home, Meat 1 comment

bresaola and rose

I’m a podcast fiend. I’m that girl that starts off every other sentence with “I was listening to this podcast the other day…” It’s probably annoying. I don’t know. But I learn so much, and now I’m addicted to several podcasts. On that I love is Splendid Table. I was listening to it the other day when they started talking about wines with cured meats and it reminded me of my days working as a dishwasher at Les Caves in Corvallis. The Caves kitchen crew would always talk about the fact that they are a “from scratch kitchen” and that was no lie. They made their own charcuterie, and it’s where I had my first bresaola. Bresaola (brez-oh-lah) is a cured beef, and it’s not like a chopped up and formed cured meat like salami or sausages, it’s like on whole piece of beef that has been salted and air dried. According to Pinterest is one of the easier cured meats to make at home! This is something I’ll have to try. 

So with the memories of my first bresaola swirling around in my mind while I listened to Lynne talk to Joshua Wesson about wine. Joshua pointed out that red wine actually over powers cured meats, and a lighter wine, be it sparkly or lightly chilled, is a great choice for cured meats. 

bresaola and rose

This bresaola is so beefy and full of savory flavor, I paired it with a slightly sweet, but not too sweet, Lions Lair 2013 South African Rosé. It was lovely! An appetizer that I probably would have paired with a Cab Sav, prior to listening to the Splendid Table podcast episode. The bresaola went really well with a lighter wine that didn’t destroy my palate and allowed the flavor of the beef to open up in new ways. With such a strong flavor, something sweet to wash it down with softens the salt and brings out the unctuous flavor like I haven’t experienced before. 

When I had bresaola at Caves, it was served very simply.

Here’s what you do: have your sliced bresaola nearby and get your hands on some sliced baguette or other fresh artisan style bread. Slice up a lemon into wedges. A decent olive oil is best here, like a peppery or fruity one, whatever you can afford as a finishing oil. If you don’t have a fancy olive oil, stop by Olive and Vine if you are in the Portland area. If you simple cannot find or afford another ingredient, use the olive oil you cook with, but at least make sure it’s relatively fresh.

To build your perfect bite, layer a pice of bresaola on the slice of bread, squeeze the lemon over it and drizzle it with olive oil. Then, take a bite. It’s salty, it’s fatty, it melts in your mouth.

bresaola and rose

These are really fun to build as you go, so when you serve it, show your fellow at home happy hour friends how to make their bites.

A note on the price of this cured meat: bresaola can be a bit expensive, but a little goes a long way because it is such a strong flavor. For example, the bresaola I got from New Seasons was 29.99 per pound, but I asked the guy at the meat counter for 8 or 10 slices, which is plenty for two people (for each “bite” you could even use half a slice of bresaola to stretch it a little more) and that only cost around $2.50. It’s great like this, on its own, or as part of a larger antipasto platter of cured meats.

bresaola and rose

Bresola with the right kind of wine
Recipe Type: Appetizer
Author: Sugar Pickles
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
  • 8 slices bresaola
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • baguette, sliced
  1. On a slice of baguette, layer a slice (or half) of bresaola. Squeeze lemon over the bresaola, drizzle with olive oil. Enjoy!
  2. Excellent served with a chilled white wine or Rose.



Splendid Table Podcast,  “Don’t follow conventional wisdom when pairing wine with charcuterie” 

Wooden cutting board, West Elm

Bresaola Bernina from Uruguay 

New Seasons Market


Ginger Almonds

April 9th, 2015 Posted by Appetizers, Snacks, Travel No Comment yet

ginger almonds healthy

I try to be healthy. Really I do. Sometimes I’m all cake and ice cream, and other times I’m like, GIVE ME MORE SALAD! It’s just a weird balance I try to maintain. These nuts help. I love to snack on a little something in the evening or before dinner. I love that these have ginger, and a little Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (in place of soy sauce) to give it some deep savory flavor. Almonds are so tasty! They are healthy for you too, check out this article: 9 Health Benefits of Almonds.

So you may be wondering about the Bragg’s Liquid Aminos… well it’s a great soy sauce alternative. I use it because it has way less sodium then soy sauce, and it’s non-GMO. Did you know that just 1 tablespoon of soy sauce has almost 40% of your recommend daily intake? Last year, my doctor told me that my blood pressure was a pretty high. I started to make some lifestyle changes (I still struggle with consistently exercising, but I’m getting better!) That’s when I started really watching my sodium last year I was reading labels like crazy. I even looked up how much sodium our favorite Papa Murphy’s pizza has… and guess what? We never got Papa Murphy’s again, it was THAT bad. (also, if you click the link to look at the nutrition facts of PM Pizza, keep in mind the serving size… I don’t know think I’ve ever seen anyone cut a pizza into 12 slices, and often when we had pizza for dinner I usually had 2-3 slices, which is maxing out the daily recommended sodium amount of 2,300mg for those under 51. You can read more here.)

But the good news is it all paid off and my blood pressure levels are now back within the normal range. It taught me SUCH a valuable lesson though, read the labels, look at the serving sizes, and as always, make what you can from scratch with less salt. Your taste buds adjust and after awhile, you actually don’t even want all those high-sodium things anymore-they start to taste too salty! One more low-sodium tip: watch out for one of the biggest culprits–canned soups and stocks. 

So just because I had to cut back on salt doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy some delicious snacks! Alton Brown made these during is “Good Eats” episode, “Live and Let Diet”. If you are trying to lose a few lbs. check out this episode! He is full of great tips. 

I love how the ginger coating stays on these almonds… no egg white or corn syrup involved! I served these as an appetizer to some discerning eaters, and they loved them! 

ginger almonds healthy

ginger almonds healthy

 Ginger Almonds, slightly adapted from Alton Brown’s “Good Eats” episode “Live and Let Diet”

Ginger Almonds
Recipe Type: Snacks, Appetizers
Author: Sugar Pickles
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4 cups
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 small dried arbol chile, broken into small pieces
  • 1 pound whole natural almonds
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (or sodium-less soy sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  1. Heat the oven to 250 degrees F.
  2. Combine the ginger and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. In a large sauté pan or cast iron skillet over medium-low heat add the arbol chile and cook, stirring frequently, until the chile begins to give off an aroma, 30 to 45 seconds. Put the chili pieces in a large mixing bowl and add in the almonds, olive oil, sesame oil, Braggs or soy sauce, and the Worcestershire. Mix until all the almonds look shiny and coated, then sprinkle over the ginger and salt mixture and toss thoroughly, until the nuts look evenly coated with the ginger mixture.
  4. Spread the coated nuts into a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the pan to a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes or until completely cool. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.


Dry Martinis and Marinated Artichoke Hearts

April 2nd, 2015 Posted by Appetizers, Drinks, Happy Hour at Home No Comment yet

martini and artichoke hearts

Happy hour at home should be EXACTLY how you like it. Your martini made just the right way, your food made perfectly to your cravings and it should be less expensive and more fun! 

Martinis are my staple cocktail, but I rarely order one when I do go out. It turns out, I like the way I make them the best! That might make me sound like a jerk, but I would rather order that drink with the ingredients I don’t have and is probably too complicated for me to make at home when I’m out. So I save martinis for when I’m home. Joel and I both love them made exactly this way: shaken, dry and very cold. 

Martinis can be made with either gin or vodka. We use gin! Find one that you like. Our absolute favorite is Organic Nation Gin, but if you want a bottle, you’ll be hard pressed to find one. We also have been liking Farmer’s Botanical Small-Batch Gin, and we use that as our “everyday gin.” Organic Nation is reserved for special occasions! A lot of people also like Aviation Gin and Beefeater Gin. I tell you, I’ve tried them and Organic Nation and/or Farmer’s are still my preference. I love the juniper and pine flavors! Hendricks is too floral and herbal for this dry martini, but it’s perfect in my garden gimlet. For my vermouth, I keep it super simple. I just use dry vermouth from my grocery store, or a similar less expensive one from the liquor store (that may shock you mixologists out there, but you’ll see why I use it when I get into the method of mixing this drink!) 

martini and artichoke hearts-3The shaker I use is a wide-mouth pint sized canning jar with a NEW lid and rim (by new I mean has not been used for canning a jar before-it still has the good rubber seal on the edge). You can also use an old peanut butter, mustard or whatever glass jar that has been washed out with a good lid. Test it if you must: put some water in the jar and close the lid tightly. Shake. Did water come out? If not, then it’s good to go! If it did, find a new jar and lid that won’t leak. Nothing is worse then gin flying all over you and your kitchen, trust me on that one! Also, test your jar to make sure the strainer will fit inside of it. 

My Martini Method: 

Take a glass, preferably one with a stem. Pour a teaspoon or two of vermouth in it. Swirl it around the glass, and dump it straight into the sink with one swift, decisive motion. (see how little vermouth is in there? That’s perfect!)

vermouth in martini

Then, fill your jar or shaker with ice, about halfway.  

shaker with ice
Pour in 2.5 ounces of gin.

gin martini

Put the lid on tightly. Shake! Shake about 30 seconds to get it really cold. Using a hawthorne strainer, pour into a glass. The special strainer allows the little ice crystals that form in your gin to make it into your glass. You wan’t those! They are the hallmark of a really great martini.

cocktail strainer

With your martini in your glass, add your garnish. I like an olive with a few extra drips of olive juice from the jar, just whatever comes off the spoon is perfect. 

olive in gin martini

Sometimes I switch it up by adding something other then an olive. Here’s some other things that work really well for a dry/savory martini (sorry, we don’t do the twist around here, it’s all salt, all the time). 

Garnish options:

  • Pickled brussel sprouts! Yes, these can be found in the store but you can also make your own small jar of quick-pickled sprouts and store them in the fridge.
  • Pickled asparagus (a small spear or one cut in half)
  • Pickled or raw beet cube
  • Stinky blue cheese cube, or a blue cheese stuffed olive 
  • Pickled grape (you should absolutely make these, they are from that book I mentioned before, 
  • A small gherkin pickle
  • Pickled Onion

I think you’ll notice a trend here. Try things that are pickled in this or have a distinctive flavor like the blue cheese (oh man, a gin-soaked cube of cheese!? Girl, please.) Eating the garnish at the bottom is my favorite part. You should experiment and find garnishes that go well with your gin. 

So with our martini made nice and stiff, let’s focus on the artichoke hearts. These are quick and easy and a nice little break from all the cheese we’ve been eating lately. You can make these a couple days ahead of time, too. 

I used thawed boxed artichoke hearts. Those go into a bowl with olive oil, salt, thyme (fresh or dried, I had fresh so I used it), oregano, red chile flakes, and lemon juice. Stir it up and your done. These are good made and eaten right away, but the longer they sit the better they taste. 

artichoke hearts

I had some of this assorted charcuterie sitting in my fridge, which sounds ridiculous to say, but it’s true. I have an addiction to organic grocery stores, and the one I happened to visit this week had these little mixed packs of sliced cured meats. It’s a fun way to try a bunch of stuff, as long as you are fine with not really knowing what it is. They are usually between 3 and 4 dollars (depending on weight) and in or near the cheese case. Look at your specialty grocery store next time you go! If they don’t have them, just try something new from the deli case. They don’t mind only slicing a little for you (i.e. you don’t need to make a 18-dollar a pound commitment if you’ve never tried Speck before.)

So with a folded up piece of (what I think is) dry coppa, and an artichoke heart on a party pick, and you are all set. Take a bite and sip on your martini. Mmmm. The artichoke compliments the gin so well! Maybe next time I’ll just put a marinated artichoke heart IN my martini…. 

classy lady with a martini

Dry Martinis and Marinated Artichoke Hearts
Recipe Type: Drink, Cocktail
Author: Sugar Pickles
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 1 drink
  • 1-2 teaspoons vermouth
  • 2.5 ounces gin
  • Shaker
  • Ice
  • Garnish of choice (olive, onion, brussel sprout)
  • For the artichoke hearts:
  • 1 9-oz box of artichoke hearts, thawed, or the equivalent of canned
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  1. Pour the vermouth into a martini glass, swirl, dump it out.
  2. Fill a shaker halfway with ice and pour in the gin. Shake at least 30 seconds, but not too long. The ice will melt and water down the drink if you shake too much.
  3. Using a strainer, pour into a jar. Garnish with and olive and a few drops olive juice.
  4. To make the artichoke hearts:
  5. Rinse artichoke hearts under cold water. Combine artichokes, oil, salt, thyme, oregano and chile flakes in a small mixing bowl.
  6. Serve now, or in a day or two. To store, cover and refrigerate.


Jalapeño Poppers and IPA

March 26th, 2015 Posted by Appetizers, Drinks, Happy Hour at Home No Comment yet

 jalepeno cheese poppers

These are a perfect happy hour at home re-make. Guys love them, and really, no one can resist them. These are stuffed with a homemade pimento cheese! I swapped out prosciutto de parma for the bacon, it’s thinner and leaner then bacon. 

pimiento stuffed jalepeno poppers-1

Sometimes I wish I was southern. Mainly so I could’ve eaten pimento cheese sandwiches as a kid. 

This one starts with cream cheese, sharp white cheddar (my favorite is Tillamook, but any cheese you like will work) and medium cheddar. 

pimiento stuffed jalepeno poppers-5

Add the pimentos. 

pimiento stuffed jalepeno poppers-7

Flavor it up! I added some red onion, Worcestershire sauce, and a little vinegar and of course, fresh cracked black pepper. Then pulse until it looks sort of mixed, but still a little chunky. That’s good! 

pimiento stuffed jalepeno poppers-8

Fill the jalapeños. First, remove the seeds and ribs.

pimiento stuffed jalepeno poppers-12

pimiento stuffed jalepeno poppers-13

Wrap with prosciutto. I like to slice a piece of prosciutto in half lengthwise and set a jalapeño half near one end of the prosciutto, then wrap it up like an envelope or sort of roll it if you can. 

pimiento stuffed jalepeno poppers-18

Place them all on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes at 400 degrees, until brown and crispy. 

pimiento stuffed jalepeno poppers-26

Okay, time to talk about the beverage for a minute. This is so great with one of our current favorites: Fort George Brewery’s The Optimist IPA. It’s crisp and aromatic without being bitter. It’s a totally delicious IPA, and perfect with an appetizer like this. Happy hour at home for the WIN!

the optimist and jalepeno poppers

Pimento Cheese Stuffed Jalapeño Poppers
Author: Sugar Pickles
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12 poppers
  • 4oz cream cheese
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 4 oz jar chopped pimento
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press
  • 3/4 medium cheddar cheese, shredded or chopped
  • 1/2 cup sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded or chopped
  • 1/4 cup red onion, sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon vinegar
  • dash Worcestershire sauce
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 6 jalapeños
  • 1 package prosciutto de Parma
  1. Make the pimento cheese. In a food processor, blend together the cream cheese, mayonnaise, pimentos and the garlic until smooth. Add the cheeses and red onion and pulse until combined but still a little chunky. Add the vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and pepper. Set aside or refrigerate until you are ready to stuff the peppers. You can make this up to three days ahead.
  2. When you are ready to stuff the peppers, slice the jalapeños in half and remove the ribs and seeds. Fill with the pimento cheese, using about two tablespoons per jalapeño half.
  3. To wrap each jalapeño half with prosciutto, lay a slice of prosciutto on a cutting board and slice in half vertically, so you have two long slices of prosciutto. Lay a stuffed jalapeño on the lower third of a strip of prosciutto. Wrap it up like an envelope, starting with the short end of prosciutto, and then wrapping/rolling the jalapeño up with the rest of the prosciutto.
  4. When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the prosciutto is brown and crispy. Let cool on the baking sheet for a minute before serving. The jalapeños can be stuffed and wrapped up to a day ahead of time. You will have extra pimento cheese; I hear it makes great sandwiches.



Baked Fontina and merlot for two

March 19th, 2015 Posted by Appetizers, Drinks, Happy Hour at Home 3 comments

happy hour for two

So it’s Thursday! We need a little respite from the work week. We need a little drink to sip on and a snack to nibble on. Happy Hour is on everyone’s mind usually by this time of the week. Does happy hour stress anyone else out? I could never seem to get out of work and to the bar before last HH call (who can actually make it to happy hour at 4pm anyways?)

Then there’s the ordering. Why do I have to make a decision in two seconds (and it’s always between a greasy burger or a boring overpriced side salad)? Not to mention driving home after downing two (because they are $3 off!) drinks and hardly eating a real meal.

No. No. No. I am reclaiming happy hour. Happy hour at home! It’s the way to go. 

Here’s why: 

  1. You get exponentially better food. Better for you, fresher, and likely faster.
  2. Alcohol is cheaper when you buy a bottle of your favorite liquor and mix your own cocktails. Plus you can a make it just the way you like it. 
  3. Bonus: You’re already home so you don’t have to worry about driving. 
  4. So, now that we’ve decided to go home and get comfortable with our cocktails, what do we make? 

Happy hour at home should be: 

  1. Easy
  2. Fast
  3. Make ahead if possible. You don’t want to put too much pressure on your self, or it’s not happy!
  4. Delicious! Hey, if you make it yourself, you can make it any which way you want, and usually the money you would have spent on going out can go towards upgrades in your ingredients! 

Which is exactly why we use the fancy fontina in this recipe. This is Fontina Val d’Aosta, an Italian semi-hard cheese that is fantastic for melting. It has medium flavor, meaning, it’s not a stinky cheese, but it’s not super mild either, it’s kinda pleasantly in the middle with a rich, melty texture and aroma. It’s a comforting and satisfying cheese, perfect for a weeknight happy hour or drinks with your friends. 

baked fontina

I mean…. just look at it: 

melted fontina

Here’s what you do for a lovely little happy hour at home (for two!)

Cube up some of this nutty Fontina Val d’Aosta. 

cubed up fontina

Chop some herbs and slice a little garlic (you can use a garlic press to make this even easier). 

Toast some bread or heat up a baguette in the oven. 

Put the cheese in a small cast iron skillet (4-6 inch or anything oven proof around 4-6 inches.)

baked fontina

Drizzle olive oil over the cheese and sprinkle with salt and fresh ground black pepper. I am betting that you could do this in the morning or the night before and cover with plastic wrap or keep in a container in the fridge until you are ready to bake it. 

Take your bread out of the oven and slice it. Put the cheese under the broiler. 

It only takes about 5 minutes, so don’t go too far away! Open the wine. We have a lovely 2013 Black Mountain Merlot. I picked this up at Trader Joe’s for $6.99. Guess what? It’s lovely with this cheese! If you can’t fine this wine, just ask the wine dude or lady for a wine that would pair well with a good fontina cheese. I also found this blog that offers other suggestions from Trader Joe’s. If wine isn’t your thing, try an American Pale Ale or a Doppelbock beer. If you don’t like wine OR beer, what are ya doin’ here? This is happy hour! (aka, have kombucha or some iced tea.)

trader joes black mountain merlot 2013

The cheese is ready! It’s best served warm right out of the pan you baked it in. I recommend melting the cheese right before you plan to serve it, trying to re-heat this doesn’t work. 

baked fontina

So why do we love this for happy hour at home? It’s easy! You could cut the cheese (hehe) and the herbs ahead of time, but even doing that doesn’t take too long. The drink here is simple, just a well chosen wine. And the fontina in this dish is seriously upgraded, so making it for two keeps it affordable. 

Slightly adapted from Ina Garten’s Make It Ahead. If you like this red cast iron skillet, you can find it in my Etsy shop (I only have one!). 

Baked Fontina and merlot for two
Recipe Type: Appetizer, Snack
Author: Sugar Pickles
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 2 servings
  • 1/2 pound (or close to it) Fontina Val d’Aosta cheese, rind cut off
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced or pressed through a garlic press
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/3 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • sprinkle of salt and fresh ground pepper
  • French baguette for serving
  1. Toast the bread or heat it up in the oven. Cube up the fontina into 1″ chunks. Remove the bread and slice. Preheat the broiler with the rack 5 or 6 inches from the heat.
  2. In a 5 or 6″ skillet or small baking dish, sprinkle the fontina evenly. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with the garlic, herbs and salt and pepper. Broil until melted, bubbly and slightly browned, about 5 or 6 minutes. Meanwhile, open the wine and pour.
  3. When the cheese is done, serve right out of the hot dish with the french bread. Cheers! It’s happy hour!


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