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Summer in Reno means food festivals from chicken wings and chili, to soulvaki and ribs. Plus the food truck trend has driven into town with grilled cheese, sausages and yogurt trucks popping up in parking lots across the city.

But sometimes, you don’t want to fight the crowds to  find some space on the grass at Wingfield Park to see the next band, even if the Gourmelt truck is going to be there, sometimes you just want to sit in the backyard, listen to the wind in tress and enjoy a cool drink.

Thanks to Elise at Simply Recipes, today that meant a refreshing Cucumber Lime Mint Agua Fresca.

This might just be my drink of the summer. With a few small, accidental changes to Elise’s recipe. This afternoon, I grabbed the blender, chopped up two or three cucumbers, added in a good bunch of mint, about a cup to a cup and a half of fresh lime juice and about a half a cup of sugar. I blended it all with about two or three cups of water, strained it, then poured it in a pitcher and chilled it.

I will warn you, this drink is green. Green, green, almost that wheat grassy green that your friend made you drink at Mother’s Market in Costa Mesa that made you sort of gag that one time. But, she told you it was good for you, so you drank it. Even though you could hear your mother saying that bridge thing in the back of your head. But, I digress, and I promise it tastes so much better than wheat grass juice. So, don’t let the color scare you. On the plus side, you totally feel like you are drinking something healthy and good for you.

Now you might say, “Shel, I have lemons not limes.” Ok with me, use them. “I want to use Agave nectar, not sugar,” fine, rock on with the nectar or stevia or even honey. “Shel, it’s been a long day, week, year, I need something with more of a kick to deal with the fact that the air conditioning is out, my entire family is coming over for brunch in two hours and I haven’t started cleaning the house or cooking or I just need to work up the courage to bathe the dogs.” I get it, I’m there with you, throw in a shot of tequila or vodka, you are all set.

It’s a mighty nice change from a Bloody Mary or an Iced Tea, while being super refreshing.

Thanks Elise!

We’ll it has been a thousand years since that ham dinner. And, to be honest I haven’t made a ham since. I guess I am still a little nervous.

However, I have been making some other lovely treats. Mike and I have been perfecting barbequing ribs and tri tip, we are not quite there with the brisket. Refrigerator and canned dill-jalapeno pickles have made their way into the fridge and pantry over the last few weeks. And, we are working on the perfect sauce to enter into the Great Italian Festival’s Sauce Competition in October.

During the summer of 2010, I moved back into the the office world after working from home for several years, this has taken some adjustment on my part. I have to wear real clothes to work instead of yoga pants and sweatshirts. My workmates actually have conversations with me, instead of barking, wagging and napping all day. And, I have somewhere to take baked goods instead of having them in my house! So there are lots of upsides.

Last weekend, was super cold in Reno. Well not Minnesota cold, but cold to us. It was a great day to stay in the house and bake. And, this recipe for Devil Dogs appealed to me.Devil Dogs are an East Coast treat, kind of like a Hostess Suzy Q, from what I have been told.

I have been wanting to make this cake and frosting for a while, it just looked good. It turns out it was amazing. I took some samples down into the basement for the chief taste tester and he wanted more, right away, buffet style.

Mike was mad when I told him these were going to work. He didn’t talk to me for about five minutes. Then he asked if he could have another Devil Dog, please.

The Pioneer Woman has a great step-by-step for this recipe, and I know I can’t top her. I did make one change to her frosting recipe. I substituted half low-fat milk and half and half for the milk in the recipe, since this was the closest thing to whole milk I had in the fridge. Other than that, I followed her recipe and was so happy I did. Enjoy the Devil Dogs, but they are addicting!

 

Easter Hams

Let me tell you about my Easter.  My sister drove up on Friday and stayed until Monday.  It was a nice visit; we drank wine and champagne, cooked and ate, and sat in the sun in the backyard.  Very relaxing and low stress for a holiday weekend.  

But the Easter story really starts a few months before.  Mike and I had gone over to his friend’s house; let’s call him Murray, a few months ago. Murray had some frozen meat to give us.  He was trying to clear out the chest freezer he had in the garage so he could unplug it.  So, when we were there I noticed that he had a ham.  Now, I didn’t think much of it until I realized we would be in town for Easter.  Then I wanted that ham, in a bad way.

So a few weeks before Easter, Murray is over for dinner and I ask him about his Easter plans.  I thought he might be heading to Oregon for the weekend to see family, but no!  He was going to be in town.  So, I told him, “If you bring the ham, I’ll make dinner.”  Which he heartily agreed to.  I scored the ham!  And, planned a ham appropriate menu, asparagus, scalloped potatoes and a salad.

But, of course, it does not end there.  My coveting of pork products was about to take an evil turn.  So, a few days before Easter, Murray brings me a frozen ham so I can defrost it.  There it was wrapped in butcher paper.  And, stamped on the butcher paper is the name of the butcher and the date – March 1, 2005.  This ham that I coveted was an old ham.  

Quick aside – I like ham – but I don’t love ham.  I am not even sure why I wanted this ham so bad.  I think it was just because I knew the ham was there.  I mean roast lamb or a Prime Rib is way better than a ham.  Ham really should just be for sandwiches or served with eggs.   

Now I was worried about the ham, since the date on the wrapper said it was from March 2005.   But, I am not one to throw out meat, yet the date got me a little concerned.  So, I consulted with a chef and two butchers about the viability of the ham.  All of them told me the same thing.  The ham was most likely freezer burned and would taste off, but it wouldn’t kill us.  

This was all I needed to hear.  I was still determined to make that ham.  But, by then I started to rethink my Easter menu.  It needed to be less ham centric.    So, I made that six-pound ham with a tarragon, brown sugar glaze.  And, you know what, it tasted off, but the meat closer to the middle tasted better.  And, for the rest of the meal, we made chili rellenos, bacon-wrapped Anaheim chilies, rice, beans and carne asada.  And, I served a store bought tres leches cake for dessert, which was not as good as Leslie’s (I still ate it though).  So, there was more than enough food and everyone went home with ham.

Do you know what I want to make now, fried chicken.  Blame it on the food network.  I am now obsessed with making the perfect fried chicken.  I just hope I don’t catch the house on fire.

Living in Reno

When you move to a new place it takes a while to settle in.  I have lived in southwest Reno for a little over a year and a half.  So, I have just gotten past the “where am I going” phase when I get in the car. 

I get lost a little less (though my husband Mike might disagree) and now know where Arrowcreek is in relation to Spanish Springs and Sommerset.  I still need directions most of the time, but I am getting the hang of it.

So, now it is time to start to explore all those places that I have heard and thought about going to from new restaurants and bars, to art galleries, theaters and the occasional store.  I am learning to become a local.

A lot of this blog will focus on food, but they’ll be some shopping and random commentary as well.  Including some notes about the dogs.

So, stop in once and awhile as I navigate Northern Nevada.  And feel free to give me suggestions on all those great places that make Reno, well, Reno.

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