Elote (Grilled Street Corn) Salad

Yield: 6 Cups

Elote is dish comprised of cooked sweet corn slathered in a spicy mixture of mayonnaise, crema, and chili powder and then sprinkled with cheese. It is often referred to as “Mexican Street Corn” because it’s a popular snack sold by vendors both on the streets and at festivals in Mexico. In Reno, I find it on food trucks.

This salad takes all the ingredients of Grilled Street Corn and makes it easy to transport and serve a crowd for BBQs, potlucks and other group celebrations. It really pairs well with grilled meats.

Ingredients

6 Ears of Corn, husked and silks removed
2 Tablespoons Avocado Oil
1/3 Cup of Crema (see Notes for substitution)
1/4 Cup Fresh Lime Juice (approx. 2 limes)
Lime Zest, from 1-2 Limes 
1/2 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
1 Teaspoon Chili Powder (see Notes for chili powder recommendations)
1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Cup Red Onion, Minced
1/2 Bunch of Cilantro, Finely Chopped
1/2 Cup Cotija Cheese, crumbled (see Notes for substitution)

Instructions

  1. Preheat grill to 450 degrees or medium high heat.
  2. Brush corn ears with avocado oil, and place on the grill. Grill with lid closed, turning occasionally until corn is browned on each side. A bit of charring is OK, and imparts a smokey flavor. Too much will create a bitterness throughout the dish.
  3. Remove corn from the grill, and allow to cool for easier handling.
  4. While corn is cooling, prepare dressing by combining all the remaining ingredients except the cheese.
  5. Cut kernels from the cooled corn cobs and place in a large bowl.
  6. Pour dressing over the corn and gently toss with a spatula to coat.
  7. Add Cotija cheese and toss to incorporate.
  8. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.
  9. Garnish with additional Cilantro if desired.

Notes:

  • I make my own Chili Powder, which has cumin in it, so I don’t add any cumin in this recipe. However, if you are using a purchased chili powder that does not contain cumin, you will need to add about 1/2 teaspoon of cumin (or more to your taste). I tend to use a lighter hand with this spice, as this suites my personal tastes and cooking style. However, you can be as light or as generous as you wish.
  • Crema and Cotija Cheese are found in my local grocery. They are also found in Mexican groceries around our valley. However, if they are not available to you locally, you can substitute a mix of equal parts sour cream and mayonnaise for the crema. Grated Parmesan cheese can be substituted for the Cotija, or even a mild crumbled Feta.

Chili Powder

One of my favorite things about cooking is concocting. Making my own herbs and spice blends, flavored oils and vinegars is some of the fun. There is great joy in taking classic dishes and making them uniquely your own. Chili powder is one of the seasoning blends I think is much better crafted to your own preferences and result in a “secret ingredient.”

When I was taking culinary classes associated with my holistic nutrition degree, I was introduced to the Culinary Institute of America’s book, Techniques of Healthy Cooking. I still turn to it a lot for reference. The recipe below is based on one from this book.

Chili powder is simple to make, taking under 10 minutes. Most ingredients are easily located at the grocery store, and the flavor can be adjusted based on the type of chili you use. The result is far more complex and versatile than the store bought blends. I use this in tortilla soup, posole, meat rubs, various marinades, salad dressings, and of course, in a good hearty chili.

Feel free to play with this recipe and adjust it to suit your personal tastes. That’s half the fun of making your own seasoning blends from the basic spices and herbs on hand.

Ingredients

6 Tablespoons Chili, dried and ground (see notes)
1 Tablespoon Ground Cumin
1 Teaspoon Mexican Oregano Leaves, dried
3/4 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Coriander
1/8 Teaspoon Chile de Arbol, ground (optional - can substitute Cayenne)

Instructions

Mix all ingredients together and store in a tightly covered container.

Notes

Chili: I prefer Ancho chili over all other chili for this blend, but also use Pasilla. When mixing, I do a ratio of 2/3 Ancho to 1/3 Pasilla. Ancho gives it a bright red coloring and Pasilla offers a toasted brown. Ancho is sweet and smokey. Pasilla is hotter. The combo of the two makes for a great base for the rest of the flavors.

Cumin: I reduced the original recipe by 1/2 as I am not a huge fan of Cumin. It is necessary and if you don’t use it at all, you will find something missing, but since I don’t love it, I reduced the amounts. Go easy with this ingredient because it has a very distinct flavor and can overpower all of the rest of the ingredients. You can always adjust and add more to your liking.

Garlic: I love garlic. Also a heavy flavor. I increased the original recipe slightly. Modify to your tastes.

Oregano: Mexican Oregano is traditional here, and readily found in the international food isle of the grocery store. I grow and dry my own more traditional Italian Oregano, and use it in my blend quite successfully.

Coriander: Ground coriander refers to the seed, not the leaf of the plant also commonly known as Cilantro. I love the toasty, earthy flavor the addition of coriander brings to the blend and use it liberally.

Chili de Arbol: I also add Chili de Arbol to this recipe for an extra little kick. It can be reduced or omitted if you are sensitive to the heat of this chili. Cayenne can be used as a substitute.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread with Cream Cheese Filling

Yield: Two loaves

Who knew that vegetables could be so subtly sweet, very moist, and pair well with coffee, tea and ice cream? This quick bread is a double hit of chocolate with a hint of orange and a sweetened cream cheese filling. It’s a great way to use up that extra zucchini that seems to be sprouting out of my garden right now.

Serve at room temperature, reheated or even chilled. This bread is more like cake and suitable for breakfast, coffee breaks, and a quick dessert. Imagine it ala mode…sigh.

Ingredients

Cream Cheese Filling
 8 oz cream cheese, softened
 1/2 cup sugar
 2 tsp orange zest
 3 Tbsp flour
 2 egg  

Chocolate Batter
 Dry Ingredients:
 2 cups flour
 1/2 tsp salt
 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
 6 Tbsp cocoa
 1 cup sugar
 1/4 cup brown sugar

 Wet Ingredients:
 1/2 cup oil
 3 eggs
 2 tsp vanilla
 1/2 cup sour cream
 3 cups shredded zucchini
 zest of 1 orange

 Add In
 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips 

Instructions

  1. Grease and flour two 1.5 quart loaf pans.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 Farenheit.
  3. Make filling: Beat cream cheese in a small bowl until smooth and creamy. Beat in sugar, orange zet, and flour until smooth. Add egg and beat until throughly mixed. Set aside.
  4. Make chocolate bread batter: Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat oil, sugars, eggs, and vanilla till creamy. Stir in sour cream, zucchini, and orange zest. Add dry ingredients and mini chocolate chips and stir just till moistened being careful not to over beat.
  5. Spread 1/4 of the chocolate batter in the bottom of each pan.
  6. Then add half of the cream cheese filling to each pan.
  7. Divide the remaining batter between the two pans.
  8. Bake at 325° for 60-80 minutes. Check after 60 minutes as oven temps and loaf pan sizes and materials can vary.
  9. When the bread is done, a toothpick inserted into the chocolate part should come out clean. Cool in pans for about 10 minutes before removing to cooling racks

Salsa Verde

Yeild: 3 Cups

This is one of the late summer rewards of the garden. I had a good crop of tomatillos, cilantro and jalapeno this year and it was all screaming at me to make some Salsa Verde and preserve enough for a variety of dishes over the winter months.

I am so glad I did. This version of Salsa Verde lets the sweet/tart flavor of the tomatillos shine through, and is forgiving enough to change your quanitites of jalapeno and salt to suite your own preferences.

Ingredients

1 1/2 lbs Tomatillos
1/2 Cup White Onion, chopped
3 Cloves Garlic, peeled
1/2 Cup Cilantro Leaves, packed
1 Lime - Zested and Juiced
2 Jalapeno Peppers (or more to taste), stemmed and seeded
1/4 Teaspoon of Salt, or more to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Remove husks from tomatillos and rinse well. Pat dry..
  4. Place tomatillos and whole garlic cloves, on baking sheet. Optionally, add jalapenos.
  5. Roast in oven for 10 -15 minutes until tomatillos are softening and beginning to brown. If jalapenos begin to darken, remove them from the oven before they start to brown. For this recipe you do not want to char the produce, it will create bitterness.
  6. After tomatillos are soft and just starting to turn a carmel color, remove from oven and cool to room temperature.
  7. Place roasted produce and all other ingredients in a food processor and pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped and mixed.
  8. Taste and adjust seasonings: Add more jalapeno if you want more heat, and additional salt if desired.

Optional Canning Instructions

This recipe can be canned. It is easy to triple or quadruple the above ingredients and make a large batch.

  1. Wash and sterilize canning jars and rings. use pint size, but you can use any size you desire. The above recipe results in about 3 cups of finished salsa, or 1.5 pints so you can estimate the number of jars to use when making a large batch. I triple the recipe, resulting in 9 cups, or 4 pint size jars and 8 oz. to eat immediately.
  2. Bring water to boil in a large water bath canning kettle.
  3. In a seperate small pot, bring about 2 cups of water to a boil. Remove from heat and put canning lids in hot water. Let soak while filling jars.
  4. Fill hot, sterile jars with salsa verde, leaving 1/2 inch head space.
  5. Seal with lids and rings.
  6. Process in hot water bath for 15 minutes.

Lemon Cream Mousse

Yield: Six 6 oz. Servings

Lovely, cool, and creamy this dessert is the perfect antidote to a sweet-tooth in the summer’s heat. The ingredients are usually on hand in my refrigerator and it takes a little over an hour to prepare, most of the time spent chilling the lemon custard.

Ingredients

4 Large Eggs, whole
4 Large Eggs, yolks and whites separated
1 1/4 cups + 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
3 teaspoons Lemon Zest
3/4 Cup Lemon Juice, fresh
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 1/4 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Instructions

  1. Fill a large saucepan with several inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  2. In a large, heat-proof bowl, whisk together the whole eggs and the egg yolks, the sugar, the lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt.
  3. Place the bowl over the pan of simmering water and cook, stirring constantly, for about 10-15 minutes. A whisk is helpful in this stirring, especially as it begins to thicken, but should be applied gently. The mixture will thicken and lighten as it cooks.
  4. Remove the mixture from the heat and allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for approximately 1 hour until it is chilled through. The result will be a thick lemon custard.
  5. In a separate mixing bowl, beat egg whites for 1 minute, and then add two (2) tablespoons of the remaining sugar. Continue beating egg whites and sugar until stiff peaks form.
  6. Fold the egg whites into the chilled lemon custard.
  7. Add the cream to the bowl just vacated by the egg whites along with the remaining two (2) tablespoons of sugar. Beat on medium to high speed until stiff peaks form.
  8. Fold whipped cream into the lemon mixture. Spoon resulting mousse into serving dishes and chill thoroughly. Serve cold.

Serving options

  • Crumble graham crackers, vanilla wafers, shortbread or lemon cookies in serving dish before spooning lemon mousse into chill.
  • Top with sweetened whip cream before serving.
  • Garnish with additional lemon slices or zest.

Home Brewed Kombucha

What is Kombucha?

Kombucha has been around for over 2000 years. It s a drink made by fermenting sweetened green or black tea. The sugary tea turns into kombucha with the help of a SCOBY—a.k.a. “a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast”—which looks a bit like a floating mushroom. Except it’s made of live bacteria.

During the fermentation process, the yeast and bacteria in the SCOBY feeds on the sugar in the tea, releasing probiotics as well as B vitamins, enzymes, and organic acids. The fermentation also naturally creates carbon dioxide gasses, naturally carbonating the drink. This is why it is so fizzy.

How to make your own home brew:

First, get your hands on a SCOBY, fermenting jars and some reusable bottles for the finished product. So far, I think Amazon is great for economy, 2-day shipping, and availability of supplies. Local home-brew shops also carry these supplies. Glass, stainless or ceramic are good choices for brewing kombucha. Some people use wood barrels and claim it adds wonderful dimensions in flavor to the brew, which I do believe, but I have an aversion to anything I can’t sterilize and wood barrels aren’t as readily available. Avoid plastic, and any metal that is not stainless steel. Kombucha can cause leaching during the brewing process with these materials.

You can order your SCOBY from Amazon or speciality sites that sell the organism. It should come in a packet surrounded by kombucha starter liquid (DO NOT DISCARD THIS LIQUID). If you are lucky enough to have a friend that can supply you with a healthy SCOBY, all the better. If you have to purchase your SCOBY, you may also wish invest in a bottle of live, raw, unflavored Kombucha to serve as your starter. If getting a SCOBY from a friend, ask them to include 2 cups of starter kombucha. Keep your SCOBY in a sealed, sterile environment at room temperature prior to brewing. Never refrigerate your SCOBY.

New SCOBY, came with a bonus baby 🙂

Next you will sterilize all your equipment. You want to promote the good bacteria but not introduce anything unwanted that could lead to contamination of your brew. I run everything through the dishwasher, using non-reactive pots for steeping tea, and glass fermenting jars and bottles. Then I rinse them after the come out of the dishwasher to insure that there is no soapy residue at all, as it could kill the lovely organisms you are trying to feed.

With a healthy SCOBY and sterilized equipment, you can begin your brew.

Basic Recipe

1 Gallon Chlorine-free water
4-6 Black or Green tea bags or 1-2 tablespoons loose leaf tea (I use 3 Ice Tea size Black Tea bags as my preference)
1 Cup Sugar
1 full-size kombucha SCOBY 
1-2 cups mature kombucha starter liquid

Equipment:
1.25 Gallon Brewing Vessel
Pot or Kettle for boiling water
Muslin Square 
Large Rubber Band

Instructions for brewing

  1. Heat 1 quart of the water to just below boiling in a non-reactive pot. You can either steep in the pot, or add to your brewing vessel. Allow your tea to steep for 10-15 minutes, and then remove tea.
  2. Add cup of sugar to brewed tea while it’s still hot and stir until it is completely dissolved.
  3. If you did not use brewing vessel to steep your tea, transfer it to the brewing vessel now.
  4. Add remaining cool water. Allow to cool to room temperature before proceeding. Cover loosely with clean muslin cloth to prevent impurities from getting into the tea while it cools.
  5. Once the tea is cooled below 100 degrees Farenheit, you may add your SCOBY and the starter liquid. If you are using your hands, make sure they are clean, but don’t wash with anti-bacterial soap, or use a clean stainless spoon to transfer SCOBY to the tea. Add 1-2 cups of mature, raw kombucha on top of the SCOBY, either provided from a friend or from a verified raw, unpasturized source.
  6. Cover the jar with a breathable cloth and secure with rubber band.
  7. Place in a dark storage space, that will maintain a temperature of 65-85 degrees Farenheit. Ideal range is 75-80 degrees. In the winter, this may be hard to maintain, but not to worry, komucha will ferment acceptably at lower temps, but it will require a longer brewing cycle.
  8. Allow tea to ferment for 7-21 days. You will need to taste your brew to get the desired level of sweetness/tartness. I slip a clean straw below the SCOBY about 5 inches and take a sip. You can do this as early as 5 days after you begin your brew. In warmer temps, it will brew faster.
  9. Once your kombuchas is fermented to your prefered taste, it’s ready to harvest.
  10. Remove SCOBY to a clean sterile bowl and loosely cover with a cloth. Collect at least 1-2 cups of mature kombucha from the top of the brew to use as the starter for your next batch.
  11. The rest of kombucha is available for drinking, either straight from the vessel, or you canbottle it with or without adding flavors.
  12. Start a new batch repeating steps 1-10. If your SCOBY has replicated itself, you can separate the new SCOBY and start a second batch or store it in SCOBY hotel.

You can flavor your finished kombucha with fruit juice, fresh fruit or leave it unflavored. To increase the natural carbonation of kombucha, you may choose to bottle condition it. Fill your bottles leaving head room and seal. Let sit another 3-7 days in a dark storage area at room temperature, and then transfer to the refrigerator. The kombucha will continue to ferment as it sits in the dark, increasing carbonation, and maybe even developing a little SCOBY. Placing in refrigerator stops the fermentation. I like to stop my second fermentation after 5-7 day, longer and the brew gets more tart (which might be your preference) and a lot of pressure from carbonation can build.

There are a lot of great resources on the web and e-books or written books. I’d encourage further investigation and suggestions from other reputable sources. Suggestions on locating a healthy SCOBY, choices in fermenting vessels, flavorings, and maintaining SCOBY health are plentiful on the internet.

The SCOBY Hotel

Depending on your rate of consumption, once you get going, you can use the new SCOBYs produced by the process to increase your production. Or you can keep it smaller by storing SCOBYs in a SCOBY hotel. This is basically a vessel that allows you to store live SCOBYs, occasionally feeding them a bit of fresh kombucha from a newly brewed batch. Keeping extra SCOBYs will let you experiment with your brewing conditions knowing you have a back up in case something goes wrong. You will have your own healthy SCOBY on hand to start again. You can also gift a SCOBY to an interested friend from your SCOBY hotel.

Tips for the best fermentations

  • Do use properly steeped tea. Under steeping will result in a weak brew, oversteeping a bitter brew.
  • Do sterilize all your equipment to make sure that the good bacteria and yeast are not contaminated by unwanted organisms.
  • Do keep your fermenting kombucha in a dark place until you are ready to harvest.
  • Do use chlorine free water in both your tea and when cleaning your SCOBY or setting up your SCOBY hotel.
  • Do use unflavored, non-pasturized starter for your first batch. If purchasing brewed kombucha from a store for this purpose, please check to make sure the cultures are live. I’ve used the GT brand with good success.

Grilled Salmon with Nori Fume Furikake

Its still early summer here in the high desert, but BBQ season is in full swing. One of our favorite ways to prepare heart-healthy fish is on the grill.

Salmon packs a health punch with essential Omega-3 fatty acids, proteins, B vitamins, potassium, selenium and protein! It is high in the anti-oxidant Astaxanthin, giving the fish it’s red pigment, which helps with inflammation, supports good (HDL) cholesterol, and reduces oxidation of bad (LDL) cholesterol.

In this recipe, the salmon bathes in a flavorful marinade before grilling. Then it is finished with the great Japanese dry seasoning blend – Nori Fume Furikake. Furikake is a dry seasoning blend comprised of sesame seeds and other seasonings. Nori is seaweed like the sheets of nori used to wrap rolls in Sushi restaurants. Furikake is typically served on rice, which would make a great side dish for this fish, but here I use it to finish the salmon just before removing from the grill to impart even more flavor.

Using a BBQ grill mat to protect the delicate fish from falling through the grill grates.

Ingredients

3 - 4 Salmon fillets, skin on
Marinade
1-2 Tablespoons Nori-Fume Furikake

Marinade
1/2 Cup Low-Sodium Tamari Sauce (or Lite Soy Sauce)
1/4 Cup Avocado or Peanut Oil 
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon Ginger Root, freshly grated
2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
1 Tablespoon Ponzu Sauce

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, mix together all marinade ingredients. Pour into a shallow baking dish that will hold salmon fillets in single layer. Place salmon in marinade, skin side up, letting the flesh rest directly in the marinade for a minimum of 20 minutes, or up to two hours.
  2. Prepare grill. If grilling directly on the grill grates, oil lightly, or to prevent sticking, you can oil a piece of aluminum foil and place on the grates to prevent the fillets from sticking and falling through. I like to use a silicone grill mat which is naturally non-stick.
  3. Preheat grill to 450 degrees.
  4. Collect Tongs, spatula, instant read thermometer and seasonings to be used at the grill. Fish cooks fast, so be prepared ahead so you don’t overcook the fish while you are dashing to get something last minute.
  5. When grill reaches temperature, place salmon on the grill, skin side down. Sprinkle the fillet with Nori-Fume Furikake to taste. Close the lid of the grill and grill for 4-6 minutes per 1/2 inch of fillet thickness. A one-inch thick fillet will take about 8 minutes. Use an instant read thermometer to make sure the fish achieves 140-145 degrees Fahrenheit before removing from grill. Grill to your desired doneness, I like mine a bit on the medium-rare side, but you can cook it all the way to well done if that is your preference.
  6. Remove from grill and serve immediately.

Notes:

  1. You can use Togarashi (pepper) seasoning in place of the Nori-Fume Furikake. Togarashi, like Furikake, is a dry seasoning blend with sesame seeds, dried citrus and other flavorings. It can be spicy, Shichimi or mild, Shishito, but is primarily a blend of capsicum.
  2. Salmon is an oily, rich fish that demands lighter accompaniments. Rice, steamed or grilled vegetables and wilted greens make nice side dishes with this salmon. Grilled or fresh fruits such as pineapple, mango and papaya are also good sides.

Watermelon & Tomato Salad

This is a very quick, refreshing and colorful salad. With 4th of July around the corner and casual summer get togethers, it is a quick fix and makes a beautiful presentation. Often, in late summer, the ingredients come straight from the garden, but they can be found in most grocery stores and farmer’s markets easily.

Ingredients

3- 4 cups Watermelon Cubes
1 Pint Cherry or Grape Tomatoes
1 Large Cucumber sliced 
1/2 Cup Fresh Basil, chiffonade
1/4 - 1/2 Cup Feta Cheese, crumbled
Balsamic Vinegar, to taste

Instructions

Combine watermelon, tomatoes, cucumber and basil in a large shallow bowl. Toss with crumbled feta and drizzle with Balsamic Vinegar to taste.

All quanities for this recipe are suggestions and can be adjusted to your preference for taste and appearance.

Using multiple colors and shapes of the tomatoes will bring interest. Garnish with whole basil leaves for a pretty presentation.

Margarita Cupcakes

Yield: 24 Cupcakes

A party in a paper baking cup! These cupcakes suitable for adult birthdays, Cinco de Mayo, office parties, and summer get togethers. They are as much fun to make as they are to eat.

This recipe starts with a simple white cake mix and then layers in margarita flavor to the cake and glaze. We finish with a little salt and lime cream cheese frosting. The salt will compliment the sweet tart of the lime cream cheese frosting.

If you wish to make a non-alcoholic version of these cupcakes, eliminate the alcohols from the glaze and replace with orange juice in combination with the margarita mix step as all other alcohol in the cake will cook out during baking, but leave behind the bright flavor of the spirits.

While it looks like a few steps, they are all pretty simple. It takes about two hours to make these cupcakes with baking and cooling times.

With a little salt and lime….

Ingredients

Cake
8 ounces Margarita Mix (no alcohol)
3 ounces Tequila
1 ounce Grand Marnier
1 box White Cake Mix
3 large Egg Whites
2 Tablespoons Avocado or Canola Oil
1 Tablespoon Lime Zest

Glaze
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Butter
1/4 Cup Margarita Mix (no alcohol)
1/4 Cup Tequila
1/8 Cup Grand Marnier

Frosting
1 Stick Unsalted Butter, softened 
8 Ounces Cream Cheese, softened
2 Teaspoons Lime Zest
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
4 to 4 1/2 Cups Confectioners Sugar
5 Tablespoons Lime Juice
4 Drops Lime Extract
 
Finishing Touches
Salt Flakes (suggest Maldon or Fleur de Sel)
Lime, sliced thin then cut slices in half 
Paper straws, cut to desired length

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with baking cups for 24 cupcakes.
  2. Whisk together the margarita mix, Tequila and Grand Marnier in a small bowl or measuring cup. Measure out 1 1/4 cups of liquid (or whatever quantity of water is called for on the cake mix box); reserve any remaining for the glaze.
  3. In a bowl of a stand mixer or mixing bowl with electric mixer, beat egg whites on high until foamy. Add oil and beat a few more seconds until combined with egg whites. Add cake mix and lime zest and the 1 1/4 cups of margarita mix from step 2. Beat on low for 30 seconds and then increase speed to medium for 2-3 minutes. Batter will be smooth but have lumps from the lime zest.
  4. Spoon batter into cupcake liners about 2/3 -3/4 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Know your oven. If it runs hot, check after 15 minutes, increasing time by 5 minute increments until toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cupcakes cook in pan for about 10 minutes and then move to a rack to completely cool.
  5. While cupcakes are cooling make glaze by combining sugar and margarita mix and butter in a small sauce pan.
  6. Heat over low heat, stirring to dissolve sugar and melt butter. When sugarr is dissolved and butter is fully melted, remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients, plus any liquid left from step 2.
  7. When cupcakes are completely cool, use a pastry brush to brush the glaze over the tops of the cupcakes in a thin layer. Do all cupcakes and then repeat the glazing until each cupcake has at least 3 coats of glaze.
  8. Prepare the icing:
    1. In a stand mixer with paddle blade, or large bowl with electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese until fluffy and combined.
    2. Add in 4 cups of powdered sugar and the remaining ingredients. Beat until creamy.
    3. Add more powdered sugar until the frosting is of the consistency for spreading or piping.
  9. Ice the cupcakes using the method you prefer, spreading or piping it over the glazed cupcakes.
  10. To finish cupcakes, twist the thinly sliced lime halves and place on top of the cupcakes. Add a straw if desired and sprinkle with flake salt very, very lightly. Just a few flakes per cupcake. You want the hint of salt, but not too much.

Smokey Rhubarb BBQ Sauce

Yeild: 6 – 7 Cups

This sauce is a bit sweet and sour, but still retains the basic elements of a traditional BBQ Sauce. It’s very versatile and creates good carmelization and glazing when added on the grill. Pork and chicken work very well with this sauce.

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon Avocado Oil
1 Medium Onion, Chopped
6 Cloves Garlic, whole
4 Cups Rhubarb, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 Cup Ketchup
2 Tablespoons Molasses
4 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Worchestershire Sauce
1/8 Teaspoon Liquid Smoke
1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1/4 Cup Butter
1 Cup Beer
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Cup Rhubarb & Strawberry Sauce or other Sweet/Tart Jelly
Salt and Pepper to Taste
1/2 Teaspoon Tabasco (optional)

Instructions

  1. Gather all ingredients.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchement paper.
  3. In a large bowl, toss onion, garlic, and rhubarb with avocado oil. Spread mixture evenly on prepared baking sheet. Cook in oven for 18-20 minutes until rhubarb is soft. Transfer to a large sauce pan.
  4. Add all other ingredients except salt, pepper and tabasco to the sauce pan. Heat over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until the rhubarb is falling apart, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
  5. Using an immersion blender, blender or food processor, puree sauce until very smooth.
  6. Return sauce to pan if not using an immersion blender. Add salt and pepper to taste, optionally, add Tabasco sauce to taste. Adjust level of sweetness by adding additional brown sugar or molasses if desired, or make more tart/acidic by adding additional apple cider vinegar. This is where you can adjust the sauce to your personal taste.
  7. Insure all ingredients are well combined.
  8. Will store refrigerated for up to a week. For longer storage, you can freeze BBQ sauce in a freezer container for up to six months, or use a canning method for storage up to a year. I chose to process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes to can the BBQ sauce for longer storage.
Ribs cooked on the Pellet smoker glazed with the Smokey Rhubarb BBQ Sauce

Notes

If you don’t have Rhubarb & Strawberry Sauce on hand, you could substitute Red Pepper, Tart Cherry, Currant, or a combination of these Jellies to get the sweet/tart flavor needed. Optionally, you could add fresh strawberries or raspberries during the phase when you cook down the roasted rhubarb with the other liquid ingredients.

This is a forgiving sauce, and you can play with it to make it your own by changing up ingredients, just checking the flavors and insuring balance. When I first started the sauce it just didn’t seem quite right until I added a very small amount of liquid smoke and that made all the difference.