Don’t get me wrong, I love a good pumpkin pie, bread, soup and other delicious dishes, but sometimes it gets to be too much during this season. We get it, pumpkin reminds us all that fall has arrived, but it doesn’t rule the culinary world. Here are a few drinks that go along with the holiday atmosphere and will change up your flavor intake.

Buttered Cider:

* Makes enough for six people

  • 6 cups of apple cider
  • 1/2 tsp of cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 6 tbsp brown sugar
  1. Heat the cider, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon in a saucepan over the stove on low heat for 10 – 15 minutes while stirring every minute.
  2. Strain mixture.
  3. Pour into a pitcher with the butter and sugar.
  4. Let the butter melt just a bit before serving.
Buttered Cider

Buttered Cider

Dirty Chai Latte:

* Makes enough for one person

  • Chai concentrate 
  • Coffee
  • Almond milk
  1. Brew a pot of coffee with the blend of your choice (I normally choose a dark roast). Or, if you have the means to make espresso, make a shot.
  2. Pour four ounces of chai concentrate into a cup or jar and add four ounces of almond milk. You could also pour eight ounces of almond milk into a cup and then use a chai mix/blend. You could just brew a tea bag of chai in a hot cup of milk. All of these ways work just the same, and you could even steam your milk so the drink is frothy.
  3. Add enough coffee or espresso so that it’s strong enough.
Dirty Chai

Dirty Chai

Glögg:

* Makes enough for one person

  • Cup of Glögg (found in the food section of IKEA or World Cost Market) 
  • Orange peel
  • Dashes of nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon
  • Cup of water
  1. Add all ingredients into a saucepan on medium heat until it simmers.
  2. Turn the heat down low and let it sit for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Strain and serve.
Glögg

Glögg

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Are you spending Thanksgiving away from the family? Do you fail at cooking a turkey? Well, you have two options. You can either stray away from complicated dishes and long hours spent in the kitchen making a turkey, or you should consider eating out this holiday season. In downtown Phoenix, there are plenty of places that cater to those who prefer the convenience of dining out. I’m here to let you know a few places that are making Thanksgiving extra special for everyone and anyone who wants to chow down in the city. I’ll also let you in on some easy ways to create dishes without much work or expertise.

Dining Out:

1. The Vig on Fillmore

Enjoy Thanks VIGing on Wednesday, Nov. 27, for Four Peaks Pumpkin Porter and drink specials. They even have a reverse happy hour from 9 p.m. to midnight. While this opportunity is not on Thanksgiving itself, you still have a chance to celebrate with some swinging deals.

2. Hula’s Modern Tiki

Another event on Thanksgiving Eve is put on by Hula’s Modern Tiki. Enjoy a Modern Thanksgiving with live music, happy hour all night long and speciality drinks to start your holiday season. I suggest getting sweet potato fries with the Polynesian chicken sandwich. I get it almost every single time, and the combination is somewhat unbeatable.

Celebrate Thanksgiving at Hula's Modern Tiki

Celebrate Thanksgiving at Hula’s Modern Tiki, photo courtesy of Hula’s Modern Tiki

3. The Heard Museum

That’s right — you can enjoy Thanksgiving lunch and dinner at the Heard Museum. The Harvest Feast: An Edible Feast invites the community to partake in a contemporary spin on the traditional Thanksgiving holiday. Chef Freddie J. Bitsoie will be making dishes that reflect American Indian traditions. Enjoy art, eating and community.

Easy Cooking:

Now, for those of you who are in serious need of some help in the kitchen, here are a couple of ways to make a turkey without actually making a turkey. It may seem silly, but it’s my family’s tradition, and while I shared with you all last year how to make a fruit turkey, this year I’m teaching you how to make an Italian turkey.

Thanksgiving Turkeys

Thanksgiving turkeys

The Italian Turkey is an easy fix and is a great dish to make for a potluck. It will certainly get people talking. All you do is create a Turkey head from cardboard and paper, then tape it to a chopstick. Once you’ve done the artistic piece, you can focus on the food. Buy a loaf of sourdough bread from the local grocer and stick the turkey head into one end. On the opposite end, you’ll need to make the tail, which includes skewers, mozzarella balls, cherry tomatoes and basil. You can rip pieces of bread off and stick them onto the skewers as well. Prepare a plate of olive oil, salt and pepper for people to roll their skewers in, and presto! You have an Italian turkey appetizer.

Here’s to hoping you all have a fabulous Thanksgiving. Enjoy it with the ones you love, and be thankful for what you have. If not now, then when?

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If you’ve never been to Food Truck Friday, then I suggest you try it as soon as possible. Food trucks from all over the valley gather from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the parking lot of the Phoenix Public Market on the corner of Central Avenue and Pierce Street every Friday. This week, I had a healthy option called “The Daisy” from Emerson Fry Bread.

Emerson Fry Bread Food Truck

Emerson Fry Bread Food Truck

The colorful food truck is hard to miss and serves up a small menu — but here, you’ll find quality in massive portions that make any choice a good one.

The Daisy by Emerson Fry Bread

The Daisy by Emerson Fry Bread

The Daisy came with a side of chips and salsa, and I’ll have to admit that while the salsa was tasty, it also packed a punch. I was definitely sweating. Inside The Daisy was a bed of greens, tender and flavorful pork, pico de gallo and other ingredients that slipped my mind because I was so ravenous that I ate the whole thing without breathing. Again, no shame.

emerson fry bread

I’ll admit that I’m normally not one for fry bread, but there is something about the soft bread and flavorful meat that left my basket empty. Yes, while the portion size was large, I ate the entire thing. Let’s not neglect the fact I was hungry, okay? Emerson does it right.

An easy way to stay updated on your favorite food trucks is to follow them on social media or, for a one-stop shop, just follow the Phoenix Street Food Coalition on Twitter for quick updates on all things street food in Phoenix.

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This weekend was the Taste of the Trucks on Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix. The event, hosted by the Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation, kicked off Saturday night and picked back up Sunday afternoon. While I heard that Saturday night was popping, I was only able to attend Sunday’s activities.

Taste of the Trucks

Taste of the Trucks

For me, the day began at 7:30 a.m. as I volunteered to set up for the event. Volunteering is completely necessary in the downtown community because, in order for great events such as Taste of the Trucks to thrive, there needs to be a supportive local hub. One by one, I helped food trucks park in their specified locations and ran around making sure everyone had what they needed. Once everything was squared away and the gates were open, my shift was done and it was time to enjoy the day.

I made it a goal to try every single food truck, and while unfortunately I skipped a few food trucks that offered some large portions, I did take some second trips to some of my favorite trucks.

The first and last vendor I ate at was Paletas Betty. With the day warming up, I had to start and end with something refreshing. I tried their calabaza flavor, which is their seasonal creamy pumpkin pie flavor, and their pineapple flavor, which is refreshing and summery. Nothing beats a good paleta.

Pineapple Paleta from Paletas Betty

Pineapple Paleta from Paletas Betty

To keep with the dessert binge I clearly took a liking to, I’ll share the fabulous pie and creme brulee. Mamma Toledo’s offered up a creme pie of sorts that was absolutely delicious. Torched Goodness offered two of the season’s favorites, traditional vanilla and pumpkin spice, which is like pumpkin pie 2.0 but better and covered with blazing sugar.

Mamma Toledo's Pie

Mamma Toledo’s pie

 

Crème Brûlée made by Torched Goodness

Creme brulee made by Torched Goodness

Now, to move onto some savory dishes. Buzznbeez is a food truck that brings flavors from all over the world to downtown Phoenix. Their specialties lie in soulful comfort food and Cajun style, with their greens, five-cheese macaroni and catfish. Quite honestly, their catfish could not be more mouthwatering. It melted right in my mouth.

Buzznbeez Catfish and Macaroni

Buzznbeez catfish and macaroni

Another food truck that stood out from the rest was The Hungry Monk. From tacos to mini sliders, they were all covered with bacon and held some impressive flavor. They even put up signs with their recommendations for what beers/ales to pair with each sample.

Hungry Monk Tacos

Hungry Monk tacos

With live music, photo booths, friendly community members and food, I would say this is an event that should occur every year. Not only are you enjoying a weekend with friends and food but you’re giving back to the community. The proceeds from the Taste of the Trucks event go right back into preserving Roosevelt Row CDC so they can continue to put on great events such as these.

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If you’re health-conscious or looking for something to “fuel your soul,” then grab a smoothie, salad or acai bowl at Mojo Bowl.

I was first introduced to Mojo Bowl during my freshman year of college, two and a half years ago — good heavens, I’m old. It was a hot day in August, and my roommate and I were out on the downtown Phoenix scene. Lo and behold, we ran into the Open Air Market at the Phoenix Public Market on a Wednesday evening. I simply wanted a beverage because of the heat and figured that a smoothie would quench my thirst and fill me up. Little did I know I would fall in love with one of my now-favorite food trucks that is near and dear to my heart.

Not only was Mojo Bowl the first food truck I tried in downtown Phoenix, but it was the first food truck I’d ever eaten from. Hence my obvious emotional attachment.

MOJO BOWL Smoothies, photo courtesy of MOJOBOWL.com

Mojo Bowl smoothies, photo courtesy of mojobowl.com

My favorite smoothie to this day is the Funky Monkey, a mix of chocolate, peanut butter and bananas. It’s all my favorite things in a blended concoction. What more could I want?

Did I mention that the owner, Scott Schraml, has a fantastic story and is exuberantly friendly? Ask him about how he got into the food truck business, and you’ll learn a lot about overcoming obstacles and focusing your energy toward positive life goals. Feed your body and your soul at Mojo Bowl.

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Sweet potatoes are as popular in real life as One Direction is loved by preteen girls. They are the trendiest food to have your plate at the moment.

We see it on all the menus. The sweet potato fries at Brick, the baked sweet potato with chili-lime butter at The Phoenix Public Market Cafe — I mean, everyone is cooking it.

So, how can you get in on the delicious carb in your own kitchen, you ask? Well, I’m going to show you my favorite way to prepare the highly glorified spud.

Sweet Potato Medallions

What You Need:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Coconut oil
  • Salt

How To:

  1. Take a baking sheet and line it with parchment paper.
  2. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  3. Wash and scrub your sweet potatoes until they are squeaky clean.
  4. Slice each potato into 1/2-inch-thick rounds and place them on the baking sheet.
  5. Drizzle coconut oil over the potatoes and roll them around so they get coated.
  6. Sprinkle salt over the top and pop them into the oven until they start to brown and bubble on the top, approximately 20 minutes. (Don’t be alarmed by the bubbles, that’s just the natural sugars escaping to the surface.)
Baked Sweet Potato Medallions

Baked Sweet Potato Medallions

During the baking process, the salt mixes with the sweetness of the potato skin, creating a perfect combination and quite possibly one of the best finger foods in all existence. The coconut oil is key in this dish. Olive oil will ruin the flavor due to the dense savory flavor and thick substance, whereas the coconut oil is thinner, meaning you use less and it cooks faster, releasing the sugars just right. The science of it all is fascinating, and the taste of it is equally amazing. Enjoy.

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Do you ever find yourself at the farmers market not knowing what to get? Well, try something new and see how it goes. Worst-case scenario, you add new flavor into your life. That’s just the worst case.

For the first time in my life, I had okra. While shopping around the farmers market, I wanted to get something new and unfamiliar. I’d seen okra on cooking shows and know it’s a comfort food, but I’d never had the pleasure of eating it, much less of cooking it. There is a first time for everything.

Fresh okra from the downtown Phoenix Public Market.

Fresh okra from the downtown Phoenix Public Market.

I decided to make pan-sautéed breaded okra because, let’s face it, everything is better when it’s breaded, am I right?

What You Need:

  • Okra
  • An egg
  • Bread crumbs (you can also get these gluten-free)
  • Coconut oil

How To:

  1. Wash the okra and then slice it into wheels, cutting off and discarding the ends. 
  2. In a small bowl, whisk an egg until the yolk and whites are blended.
  3. Place a large pan on the stove top, add a thin layer of coconut oil to the pan, allowing it to spread evenly across the pan and keeping it on medium heat.
  4. While the pan is heating up, cover the sliced okra in the whisked raw egg so that they are evenly coated.
  5. Take the egg-coated okra and throw them into a plastic baggie along with the breadcrumbs and shake until the breadcrumbs have evenly adhered to the okra.
  6. Now that the pan is warmed up, dump the okra into the pan and cook evenly by turning them over with tongs every couple of minutes.
Breaded okra.

Breaded okra.

I was quite pleased with myself after my first round of okra. Not only was it delicious, but I found that apparently okra is actually a hard food to get right. Okra can be bitter and slimy when raw — but I guess the key to everything is bread.

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If you’ve ever lived in a college dorm, you’ve experienced that sinking can’t-make-food-but-don’t-want-to-eat-from-the-dining-hall feeling all too much. It’s more than a month into school, and you’re sick and tired of pizza slices and the salad bar. Trust me, I’ve been there. I get it. Here’s where I tell you: it doesn’t have to be this depressing. That’s right, dorm dwellers, you’re about to satisfy your bleak meal choices once and for all.

First of all, the best dorm purchase I’ve ever made was a Magic Bullet. If you don’t have one, GET ONE. They are inexpensive and can be purchased online or at a nearby Bed Bath & Beyond. Morning smoothies, salsa, dips, soup — the possibilities are endless.

If you don’t have a Magic Bullet, borrow one. There has got to be someone on your floor who owns one, and this is a good excuse to go door-knocking and meet some of your peers.

I used to make smoothies constantly while living in my dorm, but my favorite pastime is making frozen sorbet.

What You Need:

  • Ice cubes
  • 1/2 cup of juice
  • 1/2 banana
  • Handful of frozen fruit

Optional:

  • Protein powder
  • Greens
  • Chocolate chips

How To:

  1. Fill your Magic Bullet cup with half a cup of your liquid of choice. I used pomegranate juice for the antioxidants.
  2. Add ice cubes and frozen fruit.
  3. Finish off the cup with your banana.
  4. Place a four blade cover over the top and blend away until smooth.
  5. Pour the smoothie concoction into a glass jar (don’t use plastic — it can crack or break) and store in your mini freezer.

 

Frozen Concoction

Frozen Concoction!

Serve frozen. Perfect to make in the morning to enjoy at the end of a busy day. I usually ate them while doing some late-night studying. Hopefully, this becomes one of your favorite college dorm pastimes, as it was once mine.

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Honey Comb from Absolutely Delightful

Honeycomb from Absolutely Delightful

Saturday morning I made my way to the downtown Phoenix Open Air Market at the Phoenix Public Market on Central Avenue and Pierce Street. While looking through booths, I came across this local Arizona gem called Absolutely Delightful. Honey soaps, honey bear stuffed animals and edible honey filled the booth. Eleanor Dziuk, who owns Absolutely Delightful, mans the booth every Saturday and she is more than happy to explain the honey-making process. Absolutely Delightful uses honey from bees kept by five different local beekeepers that is swapped in and out depending on the season.

Honey Comb

Honeycomb.

I bought myself a large portion of comb honey for $15. I’ve never had honey straight from the comb, which Eleanor says is the natural form as stored by the bees, but I’ve had honey in liquid form on many occasions. I’ve always been a big supporter of eating local honey, especially after I heard that local honey is better for you if you get allergies. Apparently, eating honey produced by bees in your area means you’ll be less likely to get agitated by pollen in the air. Might as well try it out, right?

Yummy Honey

Yummy honey!

When I dove into this honeycomb I was expecting to taste honey like I’ve always tasted it, but Holy Beezus, was I wrong. If you’ve never had honeycomb before, you need to try it. More importantly, you need to try it from here. I’ve never tasted anything like it. I honestly thought I tasted the pollen from the flowers. I could eat this stuff straight and not stop. Even my 11-year-old nephew, who is not a fan of the amber-colored goo, ate two spoonfuls with a smile on his face.

For a quick morning meal, take a spoonful of honey and stir it into some plain Greek yogurt. Quick, easy, healthy and delicious. I used Wallaby Organic Greek Yogurt and the honey from Absolutely Delightful.

Honey over Greek yogurt.

Honey over Greek yogurt.

 

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Puppy chow, muddy buddies, monkey mush — whatever you may call it, there is one thing for certain. You’re going to eat it, and you’re going to like it.

Traditionally, puppy chow is made from Chex cereal, melted chocolate, peanut butter and powdered sugar. I’m about to remix this dish into something so obscure, you probably never ate it before. Let me upgrade you.

What You Need:

  • 8 cups of cereal (I use Honey Rice Puffins)
  • 1/2 cup of Nutella
  • 1/2 cup of chunky peanut butter
  • 1 cup of powdered sugar

How To: 

  1. In a medium-sized pot over low heat, combine your Nutella and chunky peanut butter and stir until thoroughly mixed.
  2. Take the pot off the heat and add your cereal. Stir until cereal is fully coated.
  3. Pour the powdered sugar into a large Baggie, pour your coated cereal into the same bag, and then shake!
Homemade Puppy Chow

Homemade Puppy Chow

You can use different types of nut butters (almond butter, cashew butter, hazelnut butter, etc.) to change up the flavors or to eliminate possible allergies. You can even add different spices, depending on the season or your taste preferences. Don’t ever be afraid to go against the grain when you’re following a recipe. A little extra cereal here and less sugar there might actually make your puppy chow better. You won’t know it unless you try it. Good luck!

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