The Classics: Chili Cheese Dogs

Perhaps you guys can help me settle a long time debate I’ve had with everyone in my family. Actually, with all the strangers I’ve ever come across in my life. I won’t say that I always ask the same question to every single stranger I encounter, because that would make me a weirdo freak, but I also won’t say that I don’t ask the same question. I insist that the hot dog links themselves are called weenies. That’s what I’ve always called them, even when I was a kid. Somehow though, everyone always laughs at me and tells me that they’re actually called hot dogs. We end up getting into a big debate because how else are you supposed to distinguish the weenie and the weenie and bun combination from each other? Weenie is the proper name. I know it. You know it. And it’s about time everyone else knows it. I think you all should leave a comment down below and tell my family how wrong they are. Jonathan knows best. Weenies for life! (End rant).  

Let’s really get down to business now. It’s time for another installment of The Classics. It’s been a while since we’ve talked about classic recipes on here and I think that now is a good time as any. The last time around I was tempting you with a Yellow Cake covered in chocolate buttercream frosting. A real childhood favorite of mine. I’ve been doing this classic series for a while now and just in case you don’t remember some of the other recipes, I’ll happy to refresh your memory. That’s what I’m here for. We kicked things off in the first installment with Buttermilk Fried Chicken. The fried chicken of your dreams. We then moved on to some of America’s favorites like Cinnamon Rolls, Apple Pie, and Bacon Cheeseburgers. Click on the links and experience them for yourself.

The biggest piece of advice I can give you at this very moment is that you really need to be putting chili and cheese on top of everything this summer. Everything. Don’t you dare let the season end without making a big pot of chili at least once. If you make it more than once, you’ll be my new best friend, though.  I know what you must be thinking, “Jonathan, it’s so hot during the summer! Why should we make a big pot of steaming hot chili, slaving away in the kitchen over a hot stove stirring chili all day long?! That’s madness!” Well, when you put it that way it does sound a little kooky, but come on people…it’s chili! Chili never needs an explanation. I shouldn’t have to force you to make chili. That’s blasphemous. Just in case you weren’t convinced enough though, I decided that hot dogs topped with chili and lots of shredded cheese needed to be involved. They’re invited to the party and they want you to celebrate with them. Are you going to leave them hanging? These chili cheese dogs are calling out your name. I think you better answer. It’s the only way to celebrate the summer. Trust me. 

[Read more…]

Chicken Meatball Tortilla Soup

Am I the only one that enjoys eating soup during the hottest days of the year? I don’t know if I enjoy it so much as I’m just used to eating steaming bowls of broth and veggies on super hot days. It brings me back to my childhood where my mother would decide that cooking soup all day long was only logical when the temperature rose to a high number. Her logic behind it would always be the same, “the heat from the soup counteracts the heat from outside and hence, it cools you down.” Does this make sense? It makes perfect sense. I remember playing outside and staring up at the windows in the house and it would be foggy and steamy from the heat of the stove and I’d be miserable and a little excited (but don’t tell my mamma) because I knew that soup was in store for us. This also meant that we’d be eating it for a few days because whenever my mamma made soup, she made enough to feed the entire neighborhood. ENTIRE NEIGHBORHOOD. She would have it cooking away on the stove in the biggest pot I’d ever seen, and would stir it with a bowl. Not a spoon, but a bowl. Standing on a chair because she wouldn’t be able to reach the top of the pot from the floor. If that’s not dedication, then I don’t know what is. 

Not much has changed since then, except we’re all a little older now, but my mom is still making too much soup and I still get the craving for a giant bowl whenever it begins to warm up. Two of my favorite soups are meatball and chicken tortilla (neither of which I grew up eating, go figure), so I thought the smartest thing to do is to combine them both into one mega soup. It was the only solution. That way, I can eat both of my favorites at the same time, without having to make them both separately, which I’m not opposed to doing by the way. Best idea, or extra best idea? Either way we all should be having soup this summer because it’s the way to go. My mamma says so, and after all, mammas know best. Don’t try to fight it, just accept it. 

[Read more…]

Roasted Cauliflower and Sausage Pasta

I cook a lot because of what I do for a living, but I don’t have to tell you that, I’m sure you already knew this. If you looked in my fridge right now you would see an obscene amount of food. It’s packed with food storage containers filled with various dishes, ranging from appetizers to salads to entrées from the week’s work. Sometimes it’s crazy how much of it there is in my house at any given moment, but crazier is the fact that we can’t always seem to eat it fast enough. We’ll have friends or family over often, and basically force food down their throats and even then we’ll find ourselves eating a certain dish for several days in a row. It’s a good thing I happen to really love leftovers. It’s not a good thing that Julian is meh about leftovers. 

Because I spend so much time in the kitchen on a daily basis, there are times every now and then where the last thing I want to do is get in the kitchen, yet again, and make dinner. Sure, on more than a few occasions what I make and shoot ends up becoming dinner, but as much as I would love for Chunky Monkey Sticky Buns and Strawberry Pistachio Cupcakes to be a hearty supper, it doesn’t always work out that way. Unfortunately my doctor says I need a well rounded meal with protein and vegetables. The nerve! On those days, I find myself making the easiest of dishes. We’ll have tacos (my go-to option) or tuna sandwiches (against Julian’s wishes) for dinner because it’s the quickest thing I can whip up without going crazy because I’ve just spent the entire day in the kitchen. Julian will cook a few nights out of the week which totally makes me happy, and I’ll just spend the night on the couch drinking a cocktail and bask in the pampered life.

We’ve recently made a valiant effort to have a date night at least once a week (every Thursday) where we go out and enjoy a meal somewhere we’ve never eaten before. It gives us a chance to try one of the many restaurants in our neighborhood. I do have to admit though, at times, mainly due to me falling in love with a particular place, we’ll go back to the same restaurant a few weeks in a row. On one of these evenings we tried a cauliflower dish that was out of this world. It was battered and fried and served with a garlic aioli and I couldn’t get enough. Easily one of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten outside of my house. Ever since then, cauliflower and I have become the greatest of friends. We’re kind of, sort of inseparable. I’ve now added this Roasted Cauliflower and Sausage Pasta to the rotation when I don’t really feel like cooking because it’s so easy to make. I can shut off my mind and bring it together in no time at all. Although it’s simple with only a handful of ingredients, it’s one of the tastiest pastas you’ll ever try. Cross my heart and kiss my elbow. 

[Read more…]

Chicken Parmesan Sandwiches

I will always reserve a special place in my heart for these Chicken Parmesan Sandwiches. Partly because breaded and fried chicken thighs are involved, I’ve learned never to question fried chicken, but also because it was the first thing Julian ever cooked for me, on our third date. This was the only dish he knew how to cook at the time, which I believe he actually called his mom right before and asked her how to make it. You gotta give the man points for trying. And even though it looked like a tornado hit the kitchen, and I was fairly certain the night would end with us at the emergency room waiting for Julian to get stitches (thankfully it didn’t), it’s still one of my all time favorite sandwiches I’ve ever eaten. No joke. And that’s saying something because I love me a good sandwich every now and then, and as we all know there are so many options to choose from, so it’s kind of hard to pick a favorite. But how can you pass up breaded chicken topped with marinara and cheese and then sandwiched together between two pieces of crusty garlic-rubbed bread?! You can’t, you just can’t, and even if you did, I’d have serious doubts about our friendship. Then again, I would be able to eat your sandwich…so maybe I should rethink this. 

To this day, whenever it’s Julian’s turn to cook dinner, I’ll either get these sandwiches or a grilled steak with brussels sprouts and potatoes. I’m not complaining though because sometimes it’s too much of a hassle for me to fire up the grill, stand in front of hot burning charcoal all night with smoke blowing in my face. Thankfully the man can grill like no one’s business, and actually enjoys doing it. He has since learned how to cook a few more dishes, through the years, like tacos and homemade tortilla chips with guacamole or grilled salmon with rice and roasted asparagus. They’ve been added to the rotation, but honestly even if this sandwich continued to be the only thing he ever cooked for me, I’d be super happy because it’s a masterpiece of a dish. But it’s best not to tell Julian this. We don’t want it getting to his head.

Instead of keeping this recipe all to myself, though, like some selfish animal, I’ve decided I needed to spread the word. I told myself, “Self, everyone needs to try this sandwich. You’d be doing the world a disservice if you didn’t share it.” That happened, but also I figured we could all use a few more quick and easy recipes that can be whipped up in no time. Especially during those week days when we’re all exhausted from work and just want to get home as quickly as possible, make dinner and catch up on those shows we’ve let pile up. Let’s get with the program and make these happen as soon as possible. 

[Read more…]

Strawberry Rhubarb BBQ Wings

I don’t know about your mothers, but my mamma would much rather have a barbecue feast instead of a fancy brunch for Mother’s Day. She’s a boss like that. Don’t give her pancakes or waffles, or even eggs, on her special day. She’d probably flip a table over and demand smoked ribs with coleslaw and cornbread on the side. I’m totally kidding, she’s not really a tyrant like that. She’s actually the complete opposite, but for dramatic effect let’s say I’m not kidding. (Sorry mamma). Give her a big plate of chicken wings though—not just on Mother’s Day but any day of the week—and she’ll be happy as a clam. A clam, I tell you. Take these Strawberry Rhubarb BBQ Wings for instance, they would probably bring tears of joy to her eyes. More so than any flower or chocolate or card ever possibly could. I think it’s safe to say that grilled chicken wings are the new way to our mothers’ hearts. It’s so 2015 of us. We shouldn’t be fighting it, but rather we should be making and eating all of the wings. Don’t fight it. Just make the wings.

Forget about all of the traditional, normal, everyday gifts that most moms get year after year. They don’t want that! They’re tired of those presents. Take it from me, they want something much tastier. Something new and exciting. Something they can’t get enough of. Something they can get their hands and faces dirty with, and are forced to lick their fingers clean because they don’t want to waste one drop of this delicious sauce. Don’t let the idea of making homemade BBQ sauce scare you though. It can be intimidating, but it’s actually incredibly easy to whip up. The hardest part is letting it simmer away for half an hour without sneaking a taste or two. So that’s definitely saying something. But let’s face it, at time’s I’m super lazy aren’t you? So I’m all for a homemade sauce that I can just dump everything into a pot, and forget about it while it simmer’s on low developing its incredible flavor, without me having to do anything major to it, other than just stirring it every now and then.

I’m definitely my mother’s son because I can never resist using my charcoal grill for everything. To me, nothing beats that flavor you get from burning coals. Definitely not as good as a propane grill, and sure it’s probably not the safest for the environment but I couldn’t grill any other way. It’s what I grew up with. My childhood during warm summer days, eating hamburgers and hot dogs by the pool. With that being said I of course, had to fire up my grill for this recipe. Rest assured though, I have those of you who don’t have an outdoor grill covered. I’ve given you a few alternative options to be able to make these sweet and spicy wings yourself. I’m just thinking of you and your mother’s because you should totally make these wings for them. They’ll be happy you did. 

[Read more…]

Jambalaya Pizza: An Ode to New Orleans

New Orleans has got to be one of my all time favorite cities to visit. It’s up there with San Fransisco and New York. Very touristy of me to pick those three, but I can’t help it. It’s funny because I was born and raised in a touristy city myself and yet, I take it for granted. I drive down Hollywood all the time and I see all of the people there taking photos and I think to myself, “Why would anyone want to visit this place?” I wonder if that’s how locals in places like NY, SF and NOLA feel as well. New Orleans is such a beautiful place to explore, though. It’s filled with friendly people and there are so many things to see. It can be overwhelming at first, but once you get used to all of the people (mainly in the French Quarter) it becomes a completely different experience. I’ve had the opportunity to go a few times now, and I’m so thankful for it. It’s been an equal amount of work and play and the best part of it all is that I get to catch up and work with my friend and fellow cat Joy. I was so sad when she moved, but it’s given me the chance to visit a city I probably never would’ve before. 

The city will always have this spooky feeling, for me. And it’s not only because of the ghost tours going on throughout the French Quarter. That’s only part of it. I think it has to do with the fact that the city itself is just so old and full of history. It probably doesn’t help that Joy told me a ghost story the second I saw her on my first visit. Aside from the ghosts and voodoo though, it’s an incredible city with amazing food. The food is really what sets it apart. I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, but it never felt right or complete to me, until now. I think I just needed the perfect recipe to go along with it. 

Julian has tagged along with me on a couple of visits now. We celebrated his recent birthday in New Orleans and let’s just say birthdays and New Orleans are the perfect match. We basically ate and drank our way through the city, much like we always do everywhere we go. We did all of the touristy things like eat beignets at Cafe Du Monde and drank all of the Bloody Marys for breakfast (through brunch). Yet some of our favorite things weren’t all that grand. Like walking in the rain from one part of the city to the other. Or drinking a few Breakfast Margaritas at an out-of-the-way joint. 

I think it’s important to go out and explore a city you’ve never been to before and visit places that are off the beaten path. You don’t know what you might find, plus it’s always great to ask the locals where they go because those places are always 1 million times better than where everyone else goes. You don’t even have to spend money on travel. Go out and explore your own city. Make an effort to try restaurants you’ve never tried or drive down to a nearby city you’ve never visited. Do some research online and go out on an adventure. Put yourself in a tourist’s shoes and see your city as if it’s the first time you’re experiencing it. I guarantee you’ll have a lot of fun and might even discover a few things. 

What are some of your favorite cities to visit? I want to know! Leave a comment down below with your favorite city with the best restaurant, dish or drink you’ve ever had while visiting. I’d love to read all about it. Or just tell me about a local spot you always go to where you live. I’m always looking for great suggestions! Julian and I are obsessed with a sushi place in Los Angeles that we go to every Thursday. Is it a problem if everyone in the restaurant remembers you and knows exactly what you’ll order? I think it’s kind of cool to have a place like that. If you’re ever in Los Angeles I can give you the longest list of things to do and things to eat while you’re here. 

Last year I wrote a post similar to this one, the first installment in a series I didn’t even think about doing at the time. Now it kind of makes sense and I think it’ll be fun to continue with the theme. Sausage and Pickled Jalapeño Pizza: An Ode to San Fransisco was my pizza obsession for the longest time after my last trip to The Golden Gate City. I tried to replicate a pizza pie I devoured there, as best I could. Julian called me the other day, after work, convinced he had just come up with the greatest pizza idea ever, he suggested Jambalaya Pizza to me and it all sort of made sense after that. An ode to New Orleans was a must. 

[Read more…]