Creamy Cinnamon Horchata Popsicles

My biggest regret in life is not eating more popsicles in these twenty five years of living. When I stop to think of all the frozen pops I could’ve been eating all these years, I get sad. It saddens me. I might even start to cry a little. A single tear from my left eye falls to the ground. In a slow dramatic way, too. Popsicles do that to me. What, have I been living under a rock or something? I obviously haven’t been thinking clearly. My mind has been somewhere else. Perhaps on ice cream. Not that I blame myself, because ice cream happens to be unbelievably delicious. But popsicles, popsicles are even better. Personal frozen treats that you can take with you on the go. Individual chilled desserts that you can use as a microphone while you sing out loud at the top of your lungs, like no one is watching. Like you don’t even care.

I’ve made it a personal goal of mine to make and eat as many popsicles as humanly possible this summer. It’s taken something incredibly awesome like Popsicle Week to deter me from my wrongful ways. Those wrongful ways being, the serious lack of popsicles in my life. But that’s all about to change because I’m on the brink of going full on obsessed with popsicles from this day on. We’re starting with these horchata pops because I’m a sucker for anything loaded with cinnamon. 

For those of you who aren’t familiar with horchata (you really should be), it’s a delicious drink made of rice and cinnamon. Think rice pudding but in drink form without all of the chunky rice. It’s served chilled and over ice. Perfect on a hot summer’s day. I’m not doing the drink justice so I’ll just let you experience the amazing taste of it for yourself with these popsicles. Hint hint. And for those of your who are familiar with it, let’s go out and celebrate with a few of these frozen pops. I promise to share. 

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Watermelon Basil Lime Iced Tea

I’ve always had this fantasy of living in a large home, maybe somewhere in the South—one of the Carolinas for sure, I’m thinking North—with a big patio or wrap around porch. In my fantasy, I’m drinking iced tea on said porch or patio, on a hot summer’s day. Heavy on the iced part because I don’t do well in the heat. I’m lounging on a chair and just drinking my tea enjoying the passing days. Waving at a few neighbors that walk on by. I may or may not speak with a Southern drawl in my fantasy, I haven’t decided yet (but you better believe I’ve been practicing it). This is where I’d plot all my villainous schemes. I’d invite my enemies over for some iced tea, all the while planning out ways on how to backstab them….wait, that’s not my fantasy. I think I’ve been watching way too much House of Cards lately. I get confused. Kevin Spacey is teaching me all the wrong ways of life, you can’t blame me. 

Now try not to judge me too much, but this is actually the first time I’ve ever made iced tea before. Like ever in my life. I can’t really say I’m an iced tea expert per say. I’m far from a tea pro so I had to do a little research (and by a little, I of course mean a lot). My google searches were something like, “How to make basic iced tea?” “How long do I steep tea bags in iced tea?” and “Fool proof iced tea recipes to win contests and major prizes.” That last one didn’t bring me any hits, but you can’t blame a guy for trying. I had to come up with my own recipe. 

Iced tea is one of those things that I always drink at other people’s homes or at restaurants, but have never really thought about making it myself. I don’t know why, I guess I always just assumed it was too difficult to make. Something about boiling water and making tea, scared me. I have a phobia of boiling water. I don’t have a phobia of boiling water, it’s a joke (someone please laugh). I was wrong though. It’s actually really easy to make iced tea. The best part is that you can add all kinds of awesome flavorings to it, and make it so much better than just plain boring iced tea. Don’t get me wrong, plain and boring iced tea is still a favorite of mine, but plain and boring doesn’t win any contests and I want to win contests for sure. So I learned a valuable lesson through all of the recipe testing I did, over the last couple of days. The lesson being that watermelon and iced tea are long lost friends. Destined to be together forever. That forever being in a pitcher in my fridge for my drinking pleasure. 

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Cranberry Raspberry Pavlovas

Now that the holidays are long gone, I have no excuse but to jump back into work and start making (aka eating) a bunch of new recipes. All for you, of course, because that’s the type of person that I am. I’m willing to sacrifice everything by stuffing my face, day in and day out, just so that you can have something to look at. Something new to try out in the kitchen and something to look forward to. With the new year, comes a promise to post more because I know I’ve been slacking, somewhat. But believe me it’s all for good reasons and exciting new prospects—both in my personal and professional life. I think that this year should be all about breaking out of our comfort zones in the kitchen and trying out new recipes and techniques. Let’s stop being scared of certain dishes or ingredients and just dive into a new us. That new us being fearless cooks and bakers because this year, we’re going to be the best cooks and bakers we can be.  This year, we’re going to wow our friends, family and loved ones with dishes that aren’t only delicious but look incredible as well. This year, is going to be a great year because we’re going to make it a great year.

It was difficult for me to think of the first post for the new year. Well, if I’m being completely honest, it was hard for me to jump back into work altogether. My brain was still on holiday mode and the yearning to continue doing nothing at all. Bowling, museums, movies, drives through the coast for Friday morning hikes, spontaneous homemade meals and lounging around on the couch watching movies with that special someone, makes it somewhat difficult to want to do anything else. Am I right, ladies and gentlemen? It wasn’t until I actually got back to working that I realized how much I missed it. “Welcome back, Jonathan,” I told myself. To which, I of course responded, “Thank you! It’s good to be back.”Sometimes I have conversations with myself because I’m weird like that, but we’ve already established that, haven’t we? Don’t judge.

Anyhow, enough about that. So here we are, the first post of January 2014. A dessert post at that, because I know how much you all love dessert posts. I wanted to share one of my favorite desserts with you but with a winter twist because although it might not seem like it’s winter here in Los Angeles (80+ degrees and all), I know for a fact that it feels like winter has taken over all around the midwest and east coast. It’s not a winter dessert in that it’s warm and comforting but more so about the ingredients we’re using. If you’ve ever had a fear of separating eggs and whipping the whites to make meringue, well then you’re in luck because this recipe is all about that. Let’s take a step towards that 2014 resolution we were talking about earlier. It’s time to get over that fear and conquer it like no one’s business. Like we’ve been conquering fears all our lives, and to a certain degree I guess we have been. We do it every day, even when we don’t think we are. It’s the way of life. Just like it’s the way of life for me to eat a dozen pavlovas and not feel any guilt whatsoever. Come on, let’s make some pavlovas together and then we’ll eat them all because that’s the way life wants it to be.

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Potato and Caramelized Onion Gratin

This is for all the last minute Thanksgivingers out there. You know who you are. The ones that are just barely planning things out. Maybe even the ones who haven’t thought about it at all, not for a second. This post is a last minute salvation to all those people out there that are experiencing a cry for help. HELP. I’m here to help, don’t worry. I can’t make your turkey for you (although I wish I could), but how’s about another side dish idea? Those always come in handy, right? Just yesterday I gave you a Sausage and Mushroom Wild Rice post that will be perfect right there on your dinner table next to your turkey. This potato dish is a nice alternative to mashed potatoes or even served with mashed potatoes. Why choose either/or when you can have both?! I’m totally okay with the idea of eating potatoes on top of potatoes because if you recall, I have an undying love for this vegetable. This side dish will go great with the rice and turkey you already have planned out for the big gathering. And if you haven’t bought your turkey yet, well then at least you’ll have rice and potatoes on the table. I wouldn’t mind that. Sounds like a perfect meal to me.

Sometimes you just need a simple recipe to keep up your sleeve for all those days when you find yourself in a cooking rut or bind. A quick and easy dish that will wow someone’s face off. Like ka-POW, there goes your face. It was just wow’d off. We all need recipes like that because life happens, even when we don’t want it to, and you don’t know what to do about it when it does. Perhaps you’ll get unexpected guests over for dinner one night (RUDE), or maybe you just need to whip up something in a hurry because you have a million other things to do and the last thing you want to do is slave away in the hot kitchen. Well, make this gratin and you’ll be good to go. Start incorporating it into your cooking repertoire because I can guarentee you that you’ll fall in love with it. You’ll be amazed on how fast and easy it is to put together, yet it’s packed with so much flavor. Make a quick sandwich and serve this alongside it. Grill up a piece of fish and eat it with a large helping, or two, of this awesome dish. I won’t tell anyone, I mean after all, what are friends for? This year, not that much different from every year really, I’m most thankful for potatoes. For being so incredibly delicious and easy to to cook with. This Thanksgiving, it’s all about you. Now let’s get cooking.

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Sausage and Mushroom Wild Rice

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Like in a few short days, around the corner. I’m sure that’s the last thing you want to hear right now because you’re probably panicking and worrying about everything turing out perfect and you feel like you might cry at any moment because it’s just too overwhelming. Or maybe you’re pulling out all of your hair because you still haven’t done the grocery shopping, and you don’t even know what you’re going to make yet, and you’re having a bunch of people over for dinner, and you just don’t know what you’ve gotten yourself into, and you feel like the world is ending. No? Maybe, I’m just projecting here. I’m still refusing to believe Thanksgiving is here. To me, this Thursday is just like any other day. The year just, whoosh, flew by. Although I do have to admit my stomach is starting to get really excited because I can’t wait to stuff my face with copious amounts of turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and dinner rolls and this here rice recipe I’m about to share with you. Oh and let’s not forget about all the pumpkin pie I plan on eating. Yeah you read that right, it’s just a carb fest. A carb-a-thon. I’m pretty sure that when the first Thanksgiving took place, it was their full intention, for this holiday to be nothing but carbohydrates. Carb party. One way ticket to Carb Town. I’m not mad at that though. Yeah, yeah, I’ll eat a few veggies here and there (for my mom’s sake). More like I’ll put some on my plate and when no one is looking just feed it to the dog. I’m totally kidding, I don’t even have a dog, but if I did you better believe he’d love vegetables. I’ll just hide the veggies somewhere else. Like under my placemat or onto my sister’s plate. She’ll give me her turkey and I’ll give her my veggies. It’s a win-win when someone you know doesn’t eat meat. If you don’t have a vegetarian friend, you’re missing out on all the wonderful eating opportunities that comes with it. Go out and find a vegetarian right away.

Thanksgiving, in all seriousness, happens to be my favorite holiday because it’s a holiday centered around food. What can be so wrong about that? It’s also a holiday (like most, I’m sure) centered around family and friends and loved ones. I added the “loved ones” to that line just in case you don’t love certain family members or friends and you just can’t stand their faces or something. See? I’m looking out for you. I’ve got you covered. I’ve also got you covered in the recipe department. If you’re tired of the same boring dishes year after year, around the Thanksgiving table, or if your family refuses to eat another green bean casserole or mashed potatoes (don’t include them in the loved ones category because they’re crazy) well, then you can switch things up this year by trying out this wild rice dish. I think that it compliments all the traditional turkey day flavors perfectly. But maybe I’m just biased because I made this and it’s the new post and I’m trying to sell it to you like a used car. That could be true. But do you really want to take that chance? This could be your new favorite Thanksgiving side dish for all you know. This could be the deciding factor for your boyfriend or girlfriend to propose to you (probably not, but I’m really trying here). I don’t think you should take the risk of not making it this year. That’s it. It’s settled. It has been decided—I’ve decided for you, trust me. You’re going to make this dish in just a short few days. No no, no need to thank me. It’s my job to make these types of decisions for you. All I ask is that you dedicate your Thanksgiving meal to me. Right before eating, just stand up and say, “I want to take a moment to dedicate this meal to the man who made it possible. The man who created this wonderful wild rice dish you’re all about to enjoy. The man who changed my life. Jonathan Melendez.” That’s not asking for much right? I think it’s pretty reasonable. But enough about me, sheesh, you all sure know how to talk my ear off. Let’s get cooking. Thanksgiving is around the corner. Like in a few short days, around the corner. We’ve been here once before…

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Potato Tacos

My oldest sister tends to not eat meat from time to time, and from time to time I mean like every day. Something I’ve had to come to terms with and accept. Oh she’s not strictly vegetarian or anything like that. She just prefers to torture me by not eating meat or chicken or pork. Talk about total weirdo. Gosh how embarrassing, I can’t believe we’re related. Alien alert. I kid, of course. There’s nothing wrong with being vegetarian. Insert my mother telling me, “be careful what you say because you’ll probably end up married to a vegetarian for the rest of your life.” And as luck would have it, I’m smitten with a vegetarian, go figure. Thanks mom! If I didn’t love meat and chicken and pork myself, basically all foods, I’d be one too. I just wouldn’t have the will power or strength to give up certain things like bacon and pepperoni. Did I mention bacon? My sister does have a soft spot for seafood though, which makes up for it I guess, but that’s a whole other story for another time.

Said sister also happens to really love potatoes. One time, she even went as far as to say that she could eat potatoes everyday, in every which way imaginable. It went something like this, “I could eat potatoes every day, in every which way imaginable.” Whoa just like that. She’s the type of person who could eat mashed potatoes with a side of fries and potato salad and not care about what people think. On Thanksgiving she pretty much only eats mashed potatoes and gives thanks to the people who invented mashed potatoes. Talk about climbing Mt. Starch, but you know what, I’m okay with that. Mostly because I’d be right there with her eating all those potatoes until the end of time. Although I’d have a side of tater tots on top of all them other taters on my plate. We’re potato loving people, what can I say? Perhaps in another life I was a potato? I was going to say potato farmer but somehow potato came out and I was too lazy to fix it. Maybe I was a potato though. I’d probably make a good potato too, just give me a couch and stand back. Ba rum bum pisshh. If I was a potato in my past life—which I’m not saying I was but I’m not saying I wasn’t either because you never know—I was most definitely probably a russet potato because let’s be honest, good ol’ russets are the best potatoes. We grow big and are perfect baked and stuffed with sour cream and butter and cheese and bacon and chives served with a gigantic steak on the side. Yes I did just say “we.” Us fellow potatoes that is.

I wish I could say I invented potato tacos. Mostly because I’d be rich and famous and people would love me and my name would be synonymous with a totally delicious dish that involved potatoes—something I was in my past life, did you know that? But also because I might’ve already told people I invented potato tacos which isn’t necessarily true. I mean, Jonathan Melendez Potato Taco Inventor just sounds so cool, right? That’s what my business cards say. The first time I had potato tacos, actually, was when I was younger. My potato-loving sister dated a guy whose mother made amazing potato tacos. In my opinion she should have stayed with the man just for that alone, but that’s neither here nor there. Anyhow like I was saying, my sister’s boyfriend’s mother knew how to get down with potatoes and subsequently changed my potato obsessed life forever. Cut to me now telling people I invented potato tacos and was a potato in my past life. Just you wait until my high school reunion rolls around. I’ll totally spread those lies like no one’s business. I’ll also exit the reunion in a helicopter, right after my big dance finale. And if you get that movie reference, you and I are now best friends. Let’s have potato tacos for dinner, yes? I’ll tell you all about how I invented potato tacos and what life was like for me in Idaho as a russet potato.

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