Paella Pasta Salad

I’ve always wanted to make a paella for the site. It’s something I’ve had in the back of my mind for a while now. I’m a sucker for rice, in any shape or form. In any recipe, really. My motto is, the more rice the better. Serve it to me every single day for the rest of my life and I’ll be happy as a clam (pun intended). I began brainstorming recipe ideas this past week and for some reason paella kept popping up in my head. Perhaps it was a sign pointing me to make paella, because the time had come for me to finally make this recipe happen. It could’ve been a sign, but really if I’m being honest, it was my stomach doing all of the thinking because I really just wanted an excuse to eat paella this week. Go figure. Anyhow, there I was brainstorming when it hits me, “Jonathan! You should make a paella but create it with a twist because there are a million paella recipes already out there!” Just like that, that’s how it happened. Word for word, and I know what you’re thinking, yes I do talk to myself in first person. It’s what I do. 

Aside from talking to myself, I’d also like to point out the fact that it’s currently the third of November. The THIRD of NOVEMBER people!!! Where did the end of October go? This whole time change thing over the weekend has got me all sorts of confused. Sure it’s just one hour of a difference, but still, my mind is taking a bit longer to adjust. I don’t know what is what anymore. The only thing I am sure of is the fact that it’s finally getting chilly here in Los Angeles and all that means is that I get to eat more comfort foods that warm me up inside. Pasta is my favorite comfort food of all. Especially hot pasta baked with lots of cheese. Yes, I’m referring to mac and cheese. Why didn’t you just say that Jonathan?!!? What can I say, I like to be cryptic sometimes. 

Okay so this paella pasta salad isn’t served hot and yes I know there’s no cheese involved, so what’s so comforting about it? It’s no mac and cheese, that’s for sure. Well, it is a pasta dish loaded with all of the meats and all of the seafoods. What’s not comforting about that?!?! You tell me! What isn’t comforting about that, huh? Huh? Well? What have you got to say for yourself? This recipe is comforting because it’s pasta mixed with sausage, ham, chicken, shrimp, mussels and clams! It’s so filling that it should be illegal, but not really because I’d really like to eat this until the end of time, and I think you should too. 

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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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Caprese Panini and Roasted Tomato Soup

I have the craziest soup stories of when I was a child. Nothing out of this world crazy, like all I ever wanted to eat as a kid was soup or anything like that. This is a whole other level of crazy. This kind of weirdness I blame on my mother, and now of course I’m sure my mom is somewhere reading this thinking, “Oh naturally, the mothers are always the first to get blamed.” But the truth of the matter is that this is in fact her fault. Where should I begin? I guess I should start from the beginning and when I get to the end, I’ll stop. You should know that I only like eating soup on the hottest days of the year. No that’s not a typo, you read that right. The hottest days of the year. That’s when I want a steaming bowl of soup the most. Not on cold rainy days, like normal people; no I crave soup when the sun is blazing and when we’re all wearing nothing but shorts and tanks. When it’s so hot outside and you’ll do anything to cool off, that’s when I want soup. In the worst possible way. When you’re drenched in sweat because it’s so freaking hot and when the last thing you’ll want to do is eat soup, that’s when I’ll want nothing but soup.

So where does my mother come into this picture? How is it her fault you ask? Well she would only make soup for us on the hottest days of the year. We’re talking about full-on big pot of soup boiling away on the stove while the sun is baking the world outside. I’d be playing in the backyard while my mother cooked, and I remember staring up and seeing the windows full of condensation and steaming from the heat radiating not only outside but inside as well. I knew she was making soup. We all knew. Her reasoning behind it—and to this day I have the same reasoning now because of her—is that the heat from the soup will cool you off. Heat cancels off heat. I’m not sure if and how that works but somehow it made sense. I didn’t question it, and if there was anything I learned as a kid, it was that mothers are always right. Write that down.

So there I was, little ol’ young me drinking my hot soup on a hot day not knowing that something was off. Thinking that every kid ate soup on scorching sunny days. Totally normal. Of course I ate the soup without hesitation because if I’m being honest, it’s the best soup I’ve ever eaten. My mom makes really great soup and I’m not just saying this because I’m throwing her under the bus here.  Now that I’m older I’ve come to the realization that hot summer soups, isn’t a thing. No matter how much my mom wishes it were. So for those of you who love soup during the cold seasons—what an odd thing to crave on cold days really—I decided to make a soup post. Much like everything in life, soup is a lot better with a side of bread. Bread wasn’t enough for me though so I decided to make this soup with a side of a sandwich. An accompaniment of a sandwich wasn’t sufficient enough for me however, so I decided to serve the soup alongside a panini. A boring panini wasn’t going to cut it, so I stuffed this one with lots of fresh mozzarella and tomatoes and a homemade basil spread that is super addicting.  Although soup is only tasty when it is served in the summer (thanks mom) I’m willing to overlook that little tidbit because this soup and sandwich combo is up there on the deliciousness scale. Get at it folks.

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Grilled Caesar Salad

Let’s talk about thankfulness, shall we? I’m full of it. Appreciation that is. Gratitude—that’s what I got. I’m really grateful for all of you. Each and every single one of you. Yes, you. You take time out of your day to read my blog, follow my pictures and crazy antics, try out my recipes and have stuck with me through my crazy schedule, at the moment, and lack of posts. Let’s face it, anyone who can make it through all my bad jokes and puns and still come back for more is a-okay in my book. We’re actually best friends now. Get used to it. You leave comments and share stories and give me ideas and although it seems that at times (lately especially) I don’t read them, I want you to know that I do read them. All of them. I appreciate them, even the ones full of criticism. Those make my work better. Your comments are what I look forward to the most when I’m lying in bed at 2 in the morning—okay it’s more like 10 in the evening because this old man gets really tired, but it feels like 2 in the morning. It’s hard at times to respond to everyone, throughout all the social media sites and on the blog itself. I try my best though.

Over the last few months, I’ve been working a lot, helping a friend with her second cookbook, helping said friend shoot some videos (which are incredibly awesome just you wait) playing with said friend’s cat (I’m obsessed, don’t judge me) packing, moving from home and unpacking. Being an adult is crazy to me, not because I’m getting older but because it’s so much work. It’s so much hard work. How do you fellow grown-ups do it?! I remember fourteen year old me wishing I was older so I could do all sorts of things (bad things, sorry mamma!) and now that I’m about to be twenty-five I think, “Why was I in such a hurry to grow up?” If only I can talk to my fourteen year old self, I’d say “Hey young self! Don’t grow up so fast you dummy. Enjoy your stress-free, school-only life while you can! It won’t last!” I’d also tell myself that green corduroys with a green shirt and green shoes is never acceptable. Like ever. What can I say, I went through a crayon phase. Needless to say, I’ve lacked on my work on this here ol’ blog and on the newsletters. I’ve had this post sitting on my computer for weeks now and I’m finally getting around to sharing it with you. Sure summer is now officially over and grilling season is long gone, but let’s celebrate the end of summer and go out with a bang. One last hoorah for the road. Adios sun and hello orange and yellow trees and chilly breezes. Oh I live in LA, I forgot, so I guess I should say, hello year round green trees that show no season. It’s the idea of autumn that I love so much. Plus guess what, with autumn comes so many great holidays centered around food. Warm cozy sweaters, not green I promise. And tons of cups of steaming hot chocolate, topped with mounds of whipped cream and cinnamon. Always cinnamon.

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Mediterranean Couscous Salad

Let’s just face the cold hard facts. Sometimes it’s way too hot to get in the kitchen and rattle them pots and pans (sorry Bill Haley) over the fire or heaven forbid, turning on the oven. Talk about torture. On those days I just don’t eat. No I’m kidding (mamma, of course I eat). On those days I actually try not to cook. I guess I should say I don’t like to make extravagant meals, slaving away in the kitchen for hours on end, because I actually do cook, they’re just super fast dishes with minimal actual “cooking” involved. Not to mention, who wants to eat a hot meal when it’s deplorably hot outside as well? I don’t folks, I don’t. That’s when these easy and refreshing meals come into the picture. Recipes that cool me down without making me spend too much time in the heat of the kitchen. Recipes that are super easy to put together, and utilize ingredients I already have on hand in the fridge or pantry because the last thing I need is to have to go to the market to buy ingredients for dinner. Is it too much to ask for to have such recipes at my disposal? No, not really. That’s totally reasonable. Yes I just answered my own question and no I’m not ashamed of it. Welcome to the inside of my head ladies and gentleman.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate the fact that I’ve put up a healthy recipe on here. High-fives and pats on the back are totally appreciated. I’ll even accept some A-OK’s and thumbs up. I mean I deserve brownie points for such a feat. Cue the flying pigs. Start the freezing over of hell. For the greater part, most of my recipes are rich desserts that are full of butter and sugar and chocolate and you know what, there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s what breakfasts of champions are made of. I just don’t want you guys to think that’s all I bake and cook and eat so I thought I’d show some variety with this dish, which I happen to make at home all the time. It’s a hit. Just ask my family, they’d tell you, “It’s a hit!” I may or may not have paid them to say that, no big deal. So why not let it be a hit at your house too? You can even take all the credit, go ahead I’m giving you permission. When someone asks you how’d you come up with such a delicious recipe you can say you made it up. “I don’t know how I come up with such things. I surprise myself sometimes. I guess I’m a genius.” Look at that, I’m even telling you what to say. Free of charge. You can pay me by making the recipe and trying it out for yourself. And if you want to invite me over to help you eat it, well I won’t complain.

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