Key Lime Watermelon Sorbet – 6 Ways!

 

The end of National Watermelon Month is upon us, but certainly nowhere near the end of watermelon! We’re at the height of the season, and I couldn’t be happier! Take a look at these prices at my local grocery store:

watermelon store display

I’ve always loved watermelon as far back as I can remember. Hot, Ohio summer days at the community swimming pool, coming home to Dad’s potato salad and grilling burgers in the backyard for supper… Sitting outside in the warm, muggy twilight afterwards, still in our bathing suits, with big icy cold slices… Juices all over my face and running down my arms as I tried to get every last bit of sweet fruit off the rind. I think those were the only times that my mother never yelled at us for getting messy with our food!

What Mom didn’t know back then, is that watermelon not only tastes good, but is so good for you, too. Watermelon is over 92% water (hence its name), and is incredibly hydrating. Not only that, but it contains more Lycopene than any other fresh fruit or vegetable! Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant and is what gives it and some other fruits and vegetables their red color.  It’s also packed with Vitamin A, C, B6 and Potassium.  So, there’s a lot more to it than just water and sugar! Who knew?

These days, I love eating watermelon in so many different ways and with so many different foods. Once you make this Key Lime Watermelon Sorbet, you can use it as a platform for desserts, smoothies, and even change up some of your favorite cocktails! Make sure you read the notes at the bottom!

 Key Lime Watermelon Sorbet

– Yields about 1 quart plus 1 cup

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 cups Watermelon chunks
  • 3 Tbs. Key Lime Juice
  • 1 Tbs. Key Lime (or Lime) Zest
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 cup granulated cane sugar
  • 1 cup water

Special equipment: Ice cream maker

Preparation:

If your ice cream maker has a separate core that needs to be frozen, make sure you do that well ahead of time.

Remove the black seeds from the watermelon. There is no need to remove the white “seeds” – they will disintegrate during the pureeing process. See notes.*

Puree the watermelon in either a blender or in a bowl, using a hand blender. Add the Key Lime juice, zest, and salt. Blend until smooth.

Pour the water and sugar into a small saucepan, and bring it to a boil over high heat. When it comes to a boil, give it a stir to make sure that all the sugar is dissolved. Allow the liquid to boil rapidly until it reaches 240º F on a rapid-read or candy thermometer. This will take about 12-14 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for 2-3 minutes. As it cools, the syrup will thicken, so don’t allow it to cool completely.

Add the syrup to the fruit puree in a stream, while blending completely.

Cover and refrigerate the puree for a minimum of 1 -2 hours.

Assemble your ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions. Turn it on, and pour the cooled fruit mixture into it while it’s running. Allow to process until thickened and soft-frozen – mine takes about 20 minutes.

Transfer the sorbet into freezer-friendly lidded containers and pop ‘em into your freezer.

frozen watermelon sorbet

At this point, we can go any number of different refreshing directions!

1.  Dessert: Watermelon SorbetSimply allow your sorbet to sit in the freezer for about an hour or two after processing, then scoop and eat! Delicious with other cut fruits, or on its own, this makes a bright finish to any meal, or as a palate cleanser between courses. Does anyone still do that anymore?

2.  Slushies:  Key Lime Watermelon Slushy

Absolutely nothing is more refreshing, cooling, and hydrating on a hot and humid day than a slushy made with this sorbet and a little crushed ice! Just put 1 cup Key Lime Watermelon Sorbet into your blender or blender cup with 1 cup crushed ice, and blend until smooth.  The kids will love it – and you!

3.  Smoothies:  Yes, I know. I told you a few weeks ago that the smoothie was dead. And I still say that the green ones taste like liquified lawn clippings. But, even I will admit that the smoothie has its advantages. It’s fast, nutritious, and easy to handle, especially if you only have one hand free.  Just because you’re having something healthy, doesn’t mean you have to suffer, though.  Make this smoothie and you’ll feel like you’re drinking a decadent milkshake! P.S. – I adore these “grown-up sippy cups”, don’t you?

Key Lime Watermelon Smoothie

Key Lime Watermelon Smoothie (makes 1 large serving):

  • 1 cup Key Lime Watermelon Sorbet
  • 1/2 cup fat-free Greek-style yogurt
  • 1/2 cup milk of your choice
  • 1/2 cup crushed ice
  • 1 tsp – 1 Tbs flax seed meal (optional)
  • 1 tsp – 1 Tbs hemp seed (optional)

Put all ingredients in your blender and let ‘er rip until smooth! Loaded with protein, calcium, lycopene, potassium, Vitamins A, B6, C, and fiber, this delicious smoothie will keep you going all morning or afternoon!

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Now for the really fun stuff!

Key Lime Watermelon Daiquiri

4.  Frozen Key Lime Watermelon Daiquiri (makes 2 servings)

  • 1 cup Key Lime Watermelon Sorbet
  • 1 cup crushed ice
  • 2 oz. silver rum (preferably Florida-made!)
  • Lime slices and sugar for garnish (optional)

Place all ingredients, except the lime slices and sugar, into a blender and blend until smooth.

Put some sugar into a shallow dish. Rub the outer rims of the glasses with a piece of lime and dip the rims into the sugar. Tap off any excess. Pour the frozen daiquiris into the glasses. Cut a slit into each lime slice to garnish the rims.

Key Lime Watermelon Mojito

5.  Frozen Key Lime Watermelon Mojito (makes 2 servings)

  • 1 cup Key Lime Watermelon Sorbet
  • 1 cup crushed ice
  • 2 oz. silver rum (preferably Florida-made!)
  • 6 large mint leaves
  • 2 sprigs of mint for garnish

Place all ingredients, except the whole mint sprigs, in a blender and blend until the mint leaves are chopped super-fine. Pour into glasses and garnish with mint sprigs.

Key Lime Watermelon Margarita

6.  Frozen Key Lime Watermelon Margarita (makes 2 servings)

  • 1-1/2 cups Key Lime Watermelon Sorbet
  • 1 cup crushed ice
  • 1 oz orange liqueur (such as Grand Marnier, Cointreau, or Triple Sec)
  • 1 oz Tequila
  • small wedge of lime (to wet glass rims) and kosher salt for garnish

Place all ingredients, except the lime and salt, into the blender and blend until smooth.  Place some kosher salt into a shallow dish. Rub the lime wedge around the outer part of the glass rims, then dip the glasses in the salt. Tap off any excess. Pour into glasses and enjoy!

*Notes:

Those little white “seeds” in “seedless” watermelons are technically not seeds at all, but rather sterile seed coats that never developed into seeds, and don’t detract from the watermelon’s deliciousness. You probably wouldn’t even notice them in your mouth, if you hadn’t seen them first! They will completely disintegrate into the fruit puree, so don’t give them a second thought.

Why did we make a sugar syrup for the sorbet? Isn’t watermelon sweet enough on its own? Well, usually watermelon is pretty sweet in its natural state, but freezing anything reduces its sweetness. So, there are actually two reasons we made the syrup. The first is to bump up the sweetness, so the end product will taste the way you want it to. The second reason is to make the sorbet’s texture a little smoother and reduce the sharpness of the ice crystals as it freezes. If you don’t want to make the sugar syrup, you can substitute with one cup of corn syrup. Relax! There’s nothing wrong with corn syrup you buy at the grocery store. Don’t confuse it with the High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) used by large commercial food companies. It’s not the same thing, and you can’t buy HFCS at the grocery store. Read the ingredients label on the corn syrup bottle, though. Some store brands of corn syrup actually contain HFCS, and you don’t want that. Only buy good quality corn syrup, such as Karo. If you’re still squeamish about it, make the sugar syrup.

Just like ice cream, this sorbet will stay fresh in your freezer for several weeks.  However, you will need to remove it from the freezer about 15 minutes ahead of time to allow it to soften a bit for use, if you freeze it for more than several hours after making it.

As you can see, once the sorbet is made, pretty much all the work has been done and you’ve got the perfect base for any number of icy treats!

For dozens of more beautiful watermelon recipes, both sweet and savory, and more information about this incredibly delicious and versatile fruit, visit Watermelon.org. They also have all sorts of promotions, carving contests, and more, so be sure to “Like” and get notifications on their Facebook page, and follow @All4Watermelon on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, for the latest inspirations!

This post was sponsored by the National Watermelon Promotion Board. All opinions are my own, as always. So, what else is new?
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By RJ Flamingo ~ 1 Comment

A Tour of Some Blogs I Love

 

key lime watermelon sorbet

What’s this? This is just a teaser for a post that’s coming later in the week. Feel free to meditate on it…

It’s early Sunday morning, the cats have succeeded in their demands for breakfast, I have my coffee cup, and it’s still quiet and peaceful here. So far. This is the perfect opportunity to share with you a little bit more about me, and to introduce you to several food blogs that I love to visit, by friends of mine who inspire me. Go get your cup and settle in for a few minutes. I’ll wait right here…. (humming Final Jeopardy music)….

First, a big Thank You shoutout to Sherri Jo of The Adventures of Kitchen Girl for featuring Flamingo Musings in her blog tour, last week. I’ve kind of lost track of how long we’ve known each other, but it definitely goes back to long before I was ever on Facebook! Sherri Jo is honest and earthy, and her blog focuses on the actual food she feeds her kids – it’s all real, wholesome, and creative. I mean, who wouldn’t love a big, heaping forkful of this Quick Asian Style Beef?

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I had to love her when she put my Spicy Tomato Jam on grilled cheese!

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She’s been focusing on a lot of fresh veg recipes, lately, and hosts a lot of fun giveaways, so you should check her out. And go ahead and follow her on Facebook, too – Sherri Jo loves company!

What am I working on?

Besides making some fun, seasonal jams for my business Freakin’ Flamingo, I’m currently working on a sponsored post for the National Watermelon Promotion Board, that will be posted on Wednesday. You’re going to really enjoy this one – I know I am! Hey, there’s booze involved! ;-)

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think that the main way my work is different from a lot of other food blogs, is that, while it’s not immediately obvious, everything I make is Kosher. You won’t find any recipes for pork or seafood, or anything that mixes dairy and meat. I was raised that way, and that’s how I cook. As a result of my having a kosher kitchen, you’ll find a lot of “work-arounds” and vegetarian and vegan (dairy-free or meat-free) substitutions and options. And, since I’ve lived in South Florida since 1970, you’ll frequently find quite a lot of Latin and Caribbean influences in many of my dishes. I love those flavors and I refuse to deprive myself of them! You’ll also find my family’s traditional Jewish-influenced favorites. Sometimes, as-is, and sometimes with delicious and healthier twists.

Why do I write what I do?

Because I can’t keep it all to myself! Even though I’m Jewish and keep kosher in my home, I come up with loads of recipes and ideas that are suitable for anyone and everyone and any occasion. I don’t like being pigeon-holed. When people ask me how I come up with some of my off-the-wall jam, barbecue sauce, or pickle concoctions, I tell them: This is my creative outlet. Some people paint and some people sculpt, and I play with my food!

How does my writing process work?

Well, first I stare in my fridge. Then I stare in my pantry. Then I stare at my spice and condiment shelves. Sometimes, I’ll spot something that captures my imagination at the grocery store or farmers market. Then I ask myself: “What if I … ”  I don’t like recipes that are too fussy or take ridiculous amounts of time to prepare. I’m a home cook, just like most of you, and I don’t have a team of sous chefs and underlings to do all the chopping, etc. So, if I can’t cook or bake something and get it on the table in a reasonable amount of time, I won’t do it and I won’t expect you to make it. I’ll cook it, I’ll write it down, and I’ll do it again to make sure it can be reproduced.  A lot of times, I’ll have something at a restaurant, or I’ll get an inspiration, and no matter what else I’m doing at the time, my brain won’t shut up until I produce it at home. I try not to bore you, but I’ll have to tell you the “Why” behind much of the process. So you’ll get it. Then I take all of that mishmash, edit it down, and rearrange it so it’ll make sense.  I hope.

So, that’s enough about me. Let me introduce you to a couple of my long-time friends with unique points of view, that you should know:

First up is my good friend Jenny, who writes The Mad Rantings of Andrew’s Mom – “The joys and struggles of autism with recipes, cooking and baking thrown in for good measure.”  Parents of autistic children will find an empathetic ear here, and the rest of us will gain a small measure of understanding for the challenges and cheer for the victories. But, mostly what you’ll find on Jenny’s blog is the love of food. And cookbooks. Lots and lots of cookbooks. And even more cookbooks. Jenny loves cookbooks so much, that she began and is the admin for The Cookbook Junkies, a Facebook group of over 7,000 like-minded cookbook addicts! If you were wondering whether or not to buy the latest book written by the latest star-chef, or an entry in the latest hip cuisine, odds are you’ll find a review of the cookbook on Jenny’s blog, or consensus about it over at The Cookbook Junkies. You’ll also find some of Jenny’s great twists and delicious original recipes, like these Citrus Ricotta Zepole! Mmm….

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Next on our mini-tour, is one of my earliest blogging friends from back when Twitter was actually social, rather than a series of links to other people’s blog posts, Heather and her now-husband, Jeff of He Cooks She Cooks. Heather and Jeff have found their mutual voice in the love of all things beer and meat – mainly charcuterie. That beer love is immediately apparent in this recipe for Farmhouse Ale Cheese Fondue

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You’ll also find all sorts of recipes incorporating beer into breads and other main dishes, and let’s face it – their love for bacon will not be denied! So much so, that they just started selling some of their unique bacons and jerkys (jerkies?) under their “Smoke & Honey” label at the farmers market in Fort Wayne, Indiana. You will have to seek them out. The reviews of their products are over the moon. Seriously. But in the meantime, check out some of their mouthwatering recipes on their blog!

Please visit Jenny’s and Heather’s blogs and next week they’ll be featuring several of their own personal favorites for you to discover.

Thanks for visiting Flamingo Musings and my friends. Feel free to stop by any time to see what’s fresh!

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By RJ Flamingo ~ 6 Comments

Spicy Peanut Butter & Jelly Burgers and Quick PB&J Tarts

 

Stuffed Burger

Wait! Don’t run away!  Listen – Lots of people have been doing weird stuff to hamburgers, these days. It’s just not enough to slap a patty on the grill, maybe a little cheese, and be done with it anymore.  Now, they have to be loaded, stuffed, and dressed for prime time.  Truth is, stuffing a burger with peanut butter, as we’re doing here today, isn’t a new thing at all. In the South, we call ‘em Goober Burgers.  But, you know me – the twists are coming…

You know how I’m always telling you to play with your Freakin’ Flamingo jams and jellies? What a delicious addition they are to both sweet AND savory foods? In fact, I’ve posted before about adding jam to your meatloaf instead of ketchup.  My favorite Freakin’ Flamingo flavors to add to meatloaf are the Blueberry Mojito and Blue Sunshine. It doesn’t taste like there’s jam in your meatloaf, but gives the meat a bit of a sweet/savory kick and helps keep it moist. In fact, not only does my husband love my meatloaf made this way, but even some of my customers have told me that it’s the best meatloaf they ever made!

I’ve been a fan of Peanut Butter & Co. for several years and use them at home on a regular basis, because they don’t use any HFCS or anything fake, and their imaginative flavors are just delicious!  Their “Bee’s Knees” (honey flavor) and “White Chocolate Wonderful” are among my favorites – especially for a quick breakfast or snack. So when I met a couple of people representing the company a couple of months ago (and I swear – it was purely by chance!), it just seemed like a match made in heaven, didn’t it? I mean, we’re both always telling people to “Think Outside the Jar!”  And when I heard that PB & Co. has a spicy peanut butter named “The Heat is On”? Make no mistake about it – this stuff is HOT! No, really. If you can’t take the heat, I suggest using one of their other flavors, such as Mighty Maple.

Thus, the Spicy Peanut Butter & Jelly Burger was born:

Stuffed Burger

Spicy Peanut Butter & Jelly Burgers

Ingredients:

  • 4 rounded tsp. Peanut Butter & Co. ® The Heat Is On peanut butter, divided
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 Tbs. Freakin’ Flamingo ® Blueberry Mojito or Blue Sunshine Jam (regular or sugar-free)
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp. (or just a few grinds) freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Method:

Scoop out individual teaspoons of the peanut butter onto a small sheet of parchment paper and place into the freezer for about an hour or more.

peanut butter discs

In a medium bowl, lightly mix together the ground beef, jam, salt, pepper, and garlic powder, until well-blended.

Divide the meat into four portions and shape into large balls, then flatten.

Place a frozen peanut butter disc onto the center of each patty, then wrap the edges around it and seal well. It should look like a regular patty, with no seams showing. We don’t want that peanut buttery goodness to leak out! :-)

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Cook on your outdoor grill or on a stovetop grill pan (or even your broiler) to your preferred doneness, and top as desired.

This is easily doubled for a crowd and you can assemble them up to 24 hours ahead and refrigerate until you’re ready to grill.

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Now, who’s ready for a quickie dessert? Peanut Butter & Jam Tartlets are so ridiculously easy and quick to put together, I almost feel guilty turning it into a recipe. Almost.

These little tartlets are the perfect take-along dessert for any get-together, anytime of year. Make these for last-minute company, family night, or when you just want a little snack. You can even make them in your toaster oven – no need to heat up the kitchen! And all you need are three ingredients for the perfect bite!

peanut butter and jelly tarts

Peanut Butter & Jam Tarts

Ingredients:

  • Freakin’ Flamingo ® Jam (any flavor – except tomato – regular or sugar-free)
  • Peanut Butter & Co. ® Peanut Butter (any flavor)
  • 1 package of Mini-Fillo (Phyllo) shells
  • various toppings, such as shredded coconut, chocolate chips, or mini-marshmallows (optional)

You’ll find the phyllo shells in your grocer’s freezer section. There are 15 in each package.

Pre-heat your oven (or toaster oven) to 350º F. Place the thawed shells on a baking tray and bake for about 5-6 minutes to crisp them up a bit. Remove from the oven and cool.  Leave the oven on.

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Fill each tart shell with 1/2 tsp of peanut butter and top with 1/2 tsp of jam. Sprinkle with a little of your chosen topping, if using. Bake for an additional 5-6 minutes in the hot oven, remove and allow to cool before serving.  Can’t wait? You really don’t have to bake them at all!

My favorite combinations? Dark Chocolate Dreams peanut butter with any mango or strawberry flavor jam; Smooth Operator or White Chocolate Wonderful with Blue Sunshine, Lemon Ginger Jelly, or Piña Colada; Mighty Maple with Strawberry Joe (when in stock) or Strawberry Vanilla (when in stock).

I always have a package of phyllo shells in my freezer at all times. And if you have a jar of Peanut Butter & Co. peanut butter and Freakin’ Flamingo jam around, you’re always ready for a snack attack! Because you just never know, right?

Visit Peanut Butter & Co. to find a store near you or, if your store doesn’t carry the flavor or style you want, order from them directly.  Of course, you know where to find your favorite seasonal flavors of Freakin’ Flamingo! ;-)

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Peanut Butter & Co. provided me with several jars of their peanut butter to experiment with Freakin’ Flamingo jams and jellies. All opinions expressed are my own, as always. You had doubts?
By RJ Flamingo ~ 2 Comments

Mushroom Faux “Philly Cheesesteak”

 

I’ll admit it: I’ve never had a real Philly Cheesesteak sandwich. I’ve been to Philadelphia for Eat Write Retreat twice now, and I still haven’t had one.  And, having a kosher kitchen, it’s not like I’m going to make one at home. What’s a girl to do?

Aside from the educational and informative sessions at Eat Write Retreat ’14, this year, the field trip to the Reading Terminal Market was especially revealing. That they were able to take the old Reading train station (remember your Monopoly board?) and turn it into an incredible indoor farmers’ market, must have been a real feat.

Our hosts, Iovine Brothers Produce and Molly Malloy’s restaurant, both located in the Reading Terminal Market, and sponsored by the Mushroom Council, prepared several unbelievable mushroom-centric dishes for us, including a (to me) mind-blowing Portabella Mushroom Philly Cheesesteak sandwich – which included the “secret” cheese sauce, by the way. That little sandwich was one of the best bites I’d had in a very long time.

Inspired, and not just a little obsessed by that session, I wanted to recreate that experience at home. Not being able to justify buying American cheese to make the sauce (maybe later!), I went with my favorite: mild and slightly nutty Jarlsberg cheese. Which I always have in the house, in case you’re wondering. You shouldn’t.

Here’s my version:

Mushroom "Philly" Cheesesteak

Portabella Mushroom “Philly Cheesesteak” Sandwiches with Jarlsberg

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, cut in half, then sliced in half-rounds
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut in strips
  • 1 8 oz package sliced “Baby Bellas” or Crimini mushrooms
  • kosher salt (just 2 small pinches)
  • Jarlsberg cheese, shredded or sliced  (2 – 4 oz., depending on how cheesy you like your sammies!)
  • 2 wholegrain sandwich rolls of your choice (or 4 “slider”-type rolls)

 Preparation:

Heat 1 Tbs. of the olive oil in a large grill pan or griddle over medium-high heat, using a silicone or heat-resistant brush to spread the oil around the pan.

Add the sliced onion and bell pepper strips to the hot pan, sprinkle with a small pinch of kosher salt. Stir occasionally and allow the vegetables to soften and char a bit. When the onions are soft and translucent (about 6-10 minutes), transfer the vegetables to a dish and set aside.

Add 1 Tbs of the olive oil to the same pan, again brushing the oil evenly over the surface of the pan.  Add the sliced mushrooms to the hot pan in a single layer, and sprinkle with another small pinch of kosher salt. Allow the mushrooms to cook for about two minutes, stir, and allow to cook for another 3-5 minutes, or until they are soft and brown with a bit of a char. Remove from heat.

I like to toast the rolls a bit, but you don’t have to. Place a layer of Jarlsberg cheese on the bottom of each roll, then add the hot mushrooms, followed by the grilled onions and peppers. Top with more Jarlsberg, if desired, then heat briefly in the oven, toaster oven, or even (heresy!) for a few seconds in the microwave, just to get the cheese melted a bit and gooey.

Treating Portabella mushrooms this way, makes them taste particularly meaty and satisfying. The flavors of the grilled mushrooms, bell pepper and onion meld beautifully with the Jarlsberg. Try this!

Image Courtesy of Dottie Foley Photography

Chefs from Molly Malloy’s Restaurant and Iovine Brothers Produce, both located in Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia, construct Portabella “Philly Cheesesteak” sandwiches for our group in the demo kitchen.  — Image Courtesy of Dottie Foley Photography

 

Mushroom Taco

Molly Malloy’s chef also prepared Mushroom Tacos, garnished with marinated shredded beets and arugula. Delicious! And I *hate* beets!

I don’t want to give you the impression that I minimize the educational aspects of EWR ’14. I always look forward to the Eat Write Retreat food bloggers’ conference every year. It’s not the biggest of the foodie cons, but that’s why I love it. Limited to only about 100 bloggers and a few sponsors, it’s intimate and the takeaways are always relevant and eye-opening. I never fail to come away with something new – and I’m not talking about the swag! (Which was awesome – as always!)

 

By RJ Flamingo ~ 4 Comments

Vegan Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

 

Last year, one of my cousins asked me if I had any vegan/vegetarian recipes that his daughter would like, for Passover.  Increasingly, I’m getting requests for vegan recipes, gluten-free recipes, and recipes that don’t contain matzo meal, for the very religious who don’t eat “wet” matzo on Passover.  And you thought I had some tough dietary restrictions!

I was determined to come up with something for my cousin, this year.  When I read that the Orthodox Union of Rabbis had approved quinoa for Passover use, I was thrilled. Not technically a grain, quinoa is loaded with protein, amino acids, vitamins, and is perfect for people on vegan and gluten-free diets.  It’s so versatile, easy to prepare, and delicious, you can feel good about eating it anytime, not just on Passover.

Keep in mind that quinoa cooks like rice, that is, every one cup of uncooked quinoa will result in 3 cups, cooked.  This recipe can be made using mini bell peppers, such as the Bailey Farms Bella Fina peppers we told you about recently, for appetizer or side dish portions, or using full-sized sweet bell peppers for main course portions, so the number of servings will vary. Using the Bella Fina mini peppers is an economical choice, however, since they’re open-field grown and domestic to the U.S., they’re less expensive to produce and are less expensive in the store than the full-sized colored peppers imported from Canada or Holland.  Either way, you’ll enjoy the change of pace!

quinoa stuffed pepper

Vegan Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 small onion (or about 1/2 cup, chopped)
  • 1 -2 cloves garlic, smashed then chopped fine
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • about 2 lbs sweet bell peppers (red, yellow, orange), divided
  • additional olive oil for brushing

Preparation:

Dice several colors of bell peppers to equal about 1/2 cup each.

quinoa stuffed pepper

In a large frying pan, heat the 2 Tbs. olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the chopped onions, garlic, and the diced bell peppers. Add the salt, stir and saute until the onions are translucent.  Add the ground black pepper and the dry quinoa.  Stir and cook an additional 2 minutes.  Carefully add the water to the pan, cover tightly, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes.  When all of the water has been absorbed and the quinoa is cooked, taste for seasoning (add more salt and/or pepper and mix well, if necessary), remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

Cut the remaining bell peppers in half (top-to-bottom), remove the seeds and pith, brush the outsides with a bit of olive oil, and lay them out in a single layer in a baking dish.  Fill the halves with the cooled quinoa mixture. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the pepper halves are a bit blistered and softened.

quinoa stuffed pepper

Notes:

You can add other vegetables to the quinoa mixture for variety, such as finely chopped zucchini. We sometimes like to add some finely chopped mushrooms (about a cup) in with the onions and peppers to saute and reduce. Mushrooms add a pleasantly substantial texture in conjunction with the quinoa. Make sure that any liquid released by the vegetables has been completely cooked off before adding the dry quinoa.

For even more Passover recipes, from breakfast to lunch to dinner to snacks, check out my Passover Central board on Pinterest!

By RJ Flamingo ~ Got a comment?

Pinwheel Meatloaf with Vegetables

 

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One of my all-time favorite foods for Passover week was Pinwheel Meatloaf. Reaching back into my admittedly faulty memory, I don’t remember my mother ever making meatloaf except during Passover.  But, whenever Passover came around, we always pored over the latest recipe pamphlet from one of the kosher food companies, and planned our grocery list around some old favorites and some interesting new possibilities.  We always put a great big check mark next to the meatloaf recipe!

Their version of Pinwheel Meatloaf revolved (you should excuse the expression) around a filling made with crushed matzo, dried herbs, and a lot of oil to hold it together.  It was (and still is) delicious. A little light on the nutrition aspect, maybe, but delicious. I’ve since lost most of those recipes. Or maybe Mom’s just hiding them from me.  So, it’s time to start from scratch and maybe lighten it up a little.

Here, I’ve adapted my go-to basic meatloaf recipe to use matzo meal instead of my usual oatmeal. If you’re not making this for Passover, feel free to use an equal amount of oatmeal, instead.  I’ve also added a surprise veggie ingredient to the meat mixture, and filled the meatloaf with an even more nutritious vegetable combination.

Such a pretty presentation and so full of flavor, you’ll definitely want to make this more than once a year! (The aroma was making us too hungry to wait for me to do the “food porn” photo styling. Forgive me. ;-) )

Be sure to read the Notes after the recipe.

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Pinwheel Meatloaf with Vegetables

Makes about 8-12 servings

Ingredients:

  • 8-12 oz. fresh baby spinach
  • 1-1/2 lbs potatoes (reds or golds)
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 8 oz. fresh mushrooms (button or cremini (crimini?)/”baby bella”)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup matzo meal
  • 3 Tbs. dried chopped onions (divided)
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2-1/2 tsp. kosher salt (divided)
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1  26.46 oz Pomi Finely Chopped Tomatoes (or Strained Tomatoes)
  • 3 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbs. sugar

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.

Place the spinach in a metal strainer or colander, and dip it into the boiling water for just a few seconds to barely wilt the spinach. Drain the spinach well by pressing out as much of the water as possible, then rolling it up in several layers of paper towels. Set the bundle aside.

Cut the potatoes into roughly 2″ chunks and use the same boiling water to boil the potatoes, uncovered, for about 15 – 18 minutes, or until fork tender. Drain the potatoes and mash well until smooth. Do not add any liquid or fats. Return to the pot, cover and keep warm until needed.

While the potatoes are cooking, place the mushrooms in the bowl of a food processor and chop very finely, until they reach the texture of the ground beef.  This will go faster and easier if you buy the the packages of sliced mushrooms. They’re usually the same price as the whole ones.

In a large mixing bowl, place the ground beef, chopped mushrooms, egg, matzo meal, 2 Tbs of the dehydrated chopped onions, the garlic powder, 1-1/2 tsp of the kosher salt, and the pepper.  Add 4 Tbs of the Pomi tomatoes. Mix it all together very well (your clean or gloved hand is the best and most efficient tool for the job), and all the ingredients are completely incorporated.

Place the meat mixture between 2 sheets of parchment paper, and with a rolling pin, roll it out to a roughly 13″ x 13″ square, about 1/2″ thick.  Remove the top layer of parchment paper.

meatloaf_rolled_4194

Spread the still-warm mashed potatoes in an even layer over the the meat to within 1/2″ of the edges.  Unroll the spinach from the paper towel and arrange it in an even layer over the mashed potatoes. Lightly sprinkle with an additional pinch of salt.

meatloaf_topped_4201

Using the parchment paper at one end to do the rolling, begin rolling up the meat over the spinach and potatoes, jellyroll-style. You want it to be a tight roll, without squooshing out the filling.  Use your fingers to press and seal the bottom and ends of the meatloaf. Use the parchment paper to transfer the meatloaf into a lightly oiled (or use cooking spray) 11″ x 17″ oven-safe glass baking dish.  Make sure that the seam side is down.  Bake for 45 minutes.

meatloaf_pan_4208

To make the sauce:

In a medium bowl, mix together the remaining Pomi tomatoes, lemon juice, sugar, the remaining 1 Tbs of dehydrated chopped onions, and the remaining 1 tsp. of salt. Stir well until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside while the meatloaf is baking.

After the 45 minutes of baking time, remove the meatloaf from the oven and pour/spread the sauce evenly over the top and ends.  Return the meatloaf to the oven to bake an additional 30 minutes.

meatloaf_sauced_4215

Remove it from the oven and allow it to rest for about 5-10 minutes before slicing with a very sharp knife.

Final_4220

Notes:

You can use any potatoes you like. We like the reds or golds for this, because they have very thin skins and we don’t have to peel them.  To plagiarize myself from a previous post: “In and of itself, the average potato is only about 110 calories and quite the nutritional powerhouse, containing 45% of the daily requirement of Vitamin C – and that’s just in the flesh. Eaten with the skin, you’ve got additional dietary fiber and more potassium than a banana!  And they’re fat-free… ”  If using a thicker-skinned potato, such as russet, you’ll probably want to peel them before cooking.

For you “mushroom-haters”, I swear that you will never know that there are mushrooms in here! I got the idea from the Mushroom Council people, last summer. They call it “blendability”. As an experiment, I made burgers by processing a pound of mushrooms, mixed them with a pound of lean ground beef with some breadcrumbs and a few seasonings. They were grilled and served to 6 people who had no idea that their burger contained 50% mushrooms. The burgers were moist, juicy, and got many compliments. Until I revealed my secret, no one knew!  This is a great and economical way to not only stretch the ground beef, but to cut a few calories, and sneak some extra veggies and nutrition into your and your family’s diet. Mushrooms are rich in vitamin D and B vitamins, so it’s a win-win!

If Pomi shelf-stable tomatoes are not available in your area (you can generally find them on your grocer’s shelves with the other canned tomatoes), you can substitute a roughly equivalent amount of canned chopped tomatoes or tomato sauce (2 15 oz cans or about 3 cups).  If using canned chopped tomatoes, you may want to chop them more finely with a food processor or stick blender. Or not. That’s the joy of cooking, right? :-)

For more Passover-friendly recipes, both classic and modern, be sure to check out my Passover Central Pinterest board! I’ve asked several other Jewish food bloggers to join in and Pin some of their favorite recipes, too.

Disclosure: Um, there isn’t one. Nope. Regrettably, no one paid me or gave me any type of consideration whatsoever to promote any brand or recommendation in this post. It’s all me.

By RJ Flamingo ~ 1 Comment

The Juicing Fad is Dead. Eat Real Food: Ready-To-Go Muesli

 

Muesli_4083_500

I hereby unilaterally declare the “Juicing/Smoothie Fad” is dead.  No less venerable authorities than the Mayo Clinic and the American Cancer Society, not to mention umpteen thousands of registered dieticians (heretofore known as “the Food Police”) are saying that: (a) You’re not detoxing yourself on juice fasts (Me: You’re just using the facilities more); (b) there’s no evidence whatsoever that you absorb nutrients faster by drinking your fruits and veggies, because they’re broken down by digestion; (c) you’re probably spiking your blood sugar levels, which is particularly dangerous for diabetics; (d) it’s not a great plan to lose weight, because when you eliminate most or all of the fiber, you’re more likely to get hungrier faster and will start surreptitiously hitting the snack food. And the “green” juices? Just like StarSux coffee, if you have to add that much crap to be able choke it down, you’re just adding more calories. And it’s still going to taste like liquified lawn clippings. (Also me)

Unless your jaw is wired shut and the only way for you to get any nutrition is through a straw, it’s done. Period. End of sentence.  Fancy cooking stores: It’s time to dismantle the displays of shiny, overpriced blenders/juicers and juicing “cookbooks” (what an oxymoron! rolleyes ) and relegate them to the Sale table in the back. Sorry, shiny-overpriced-blender/juicers.  See you in Daiquiri Season.

Rant over.

This Muesli was introduced to me in the 1980′s by the Swiss owner of the coffee shop in the office building I worked in, back then. Hans (I never knew his last name) swore by this particular concoction, and I admit that I was fairly addicted to it. Yogurt, oatmeal, a variety of fruit and nuts, you just mix up in a resealable container, refrigerate overnight, and spoon some out for breakfast, a light lunch, or snacks. It’s light eating but will stay with you all morning (or afternoon), without a let-down.  Here’s fuel to burn if you’re exercising, or just running the rat race.

This was breakfast, 5 days a week for nearly 5 years. When Hans sold the business, he finally parted with his recipe. I used to make it often, and then for some reason I stopped. Probably because it makes quite a lot, but it stays good in the fridge for at least a week.

Muesli_4085_500

Make sure you use a really big container or bowl – you’ll need the mixing room. Oh, okay. You can cut the recipe in half, too.

Muesli

AmSwiss Muesli

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups plain yogurt (or Greek-style yogurt)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal (uncooked) (Yes, Virginia, you can get gluten-free oatmeal! Who knew?)
  • 2 large apples, unpeeled and shredded
  • 1 cup seedless green grapes
  • 1 cup seedless black or red grapes
  • 2 bananas, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, or almonds – or any combination)

PLUS, in-season or frozen fruit in any combination, such as:

  • 1 pound (or quart) strawberries, sliced (or 10 oz. frozen sliced strawberries)
  • 2 dry pints blueberries (or 12 oz. frozen blueberries)
  • peaches, mangos, cherries (without pits & chopped) – fresh or frozen, etc.
  • Feel free to adjust the fruit combinations and quantities to your own taste

Preparation:

In a large bowl or resealable container, mix all ingredients together, thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate overnight before eating.  In a resealable container in the fridge, the muesli will keep for about a week.  If, in the morning, it seems too thick for your preference, add a little more milk. If a little liquid forms on top during storage, it’s just fruit juice – stir it back in. For even more variety, mix a spoonful of your favorite Freakin’ Flamingo jam (regular or sugar-free) into an individual serving!

Muesli_4075_500

Look! Real food for breakfast! Didn’t you miss it?

By RJ Flamingo ~ 3 Comments

Everything I Know (About Farming) Is Wrong

 

(Today, the Flamingo admits his ignorance. Savor the moment – it doesn’t happen often. :)  )

Mike_PotatoHead

The Flamingo is a Potato-Head Today

Now, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that.  After all, I’ve been involved with a couple of farmers’ markets, done some gardening of my own, and considered myself a card-carrying “foodie” for years. But real farming? I didn’t know “squash.”

All it took to point up my ignorance was a tour of one of Bailey Farms’ fields out Bonita Springs, Florida way. The focus of the trip was their Bella Fina peppers, a tri-colored pepper variety developed by Monsanto subsidiary Seminis.* Bred to be sweet, crunchy, and attractive to kids (although I’m not sure I would waste such a fine pepper on any children in my household. If I had any.), they were very attractive to me.

Bailey Farms Bella Fina Mini Bell Peppers

Bailey Farms “Bella Fina” Mini Bell Peppers

But this post is about me, so back to the issue of my farm-ignorance.

Mike_Field

Okay, it’s Sherlock Holmes time. What’s right about this picture? At least about my presumptions as I was looking over the view. You got it, practically nothing. First, how about the big, tall weeds over on the right? What’s the right answer?

  1. A fallow row that’s “recharging”
  2. To separate one field from the next.
  3. They just forgot about that one.

Actually, none of the above. (Yeah, it’s a trick question.) My guess was actually (A) but the real answer is that it’s a windbreak. The Baileys have farms in North Carolina as well as Florida, and this is not something that they do up there. As the old Florida tourism campaign used to say “This is Florida, the rules are different here.” That applies to farming like everything else. As Mike Clevenger, the farm’s manager, says, growing crops in southwest Florida is like planting on a beach. It’s all sand. And when the wind kicks up, those sand particles with their jagged little edges go flying through the field like micro-razor blades, slicing up leaves as they go. So the weeds are a fast-growing windbreak to protect the peppers.

So far I’m 0 for 1. Now, when is an acre not an acre? Take your time; you’re looking right at it (just like I was). Of course! There’s all that empty space between the plants. So for every acre you plant, you’re really only getting half-an acre that bears. If you’re lucky. Few farmers are that lucky, particularly in Florida. Unlike our readers in the Western states (who barely remember what rain is), growers in Florida deal regularly with thunderstorms that can drop 2-3 inches of rain in the space of a half-hour. Again, the sandy soil of South Florida is all bad news; tons of water will remain long enough to possibly drown plants, but will be long gone before they provide any nourishment. This means the water has to be pumped out of the field as quickly as possible, and it has to go someplace. That someplace is a miniature Venice of canals and catch-basins that allows the remnants of the deluge to sink back into the water table. Unfortunately, that takes up a lot of space, and the amount of land given over to actual food production dwindles further. Just because a farmer technically has, let’s say, 500 acres, doesn’t mean he gets crops out of anywhere near that amount of land.

Zero for two; I’m beginning to think of myself as an “urban bumpkin.” Finally, just to add insult to injury, I concluded that the rows of Mexican sunflowers planted near the peppers had the obvious purpose: to attract bees. These peppers have to be pollinated, right? Nope. Wrong, again. These peppers are self-pollinating. They do, however, need protection. In this case, the Mexican sunflowers are nurseries for pirate bugs that prey on the Western thrip— a tiny insect that considers a developing pepper the equivalent of the all-you-can-eat buffet. Luckily, the pirate bugs look on the thrip the same way,  so far less pesticide goes onto the field to control the thrips. Which puts me at zero for three— making my agricultural IQ somewhere in the negative range.

But I’m a Flamingo. Pass the shrimp.

*Yes, that Monsanto. We’re not getting into any of the controversies surrounding that association, here. At least, not right now. We can assure you that the Bella Fina pepper varieties  (and all of Bailey Farms’ produce) were developed through good old-fashioned cross-pollination techniques, and are absolutely not “GMO/transgenic”. Remember Gregor Mendel and the pea plants from elementary school science class? Yeah. Like that.   — RJ

We received a stipend to offset our travel costs in connection with our field trip to Bailey Farms in Bonita Springs, Florida, as well as some crispy and delicious Bella Fina mini bell peppers from Bailey Farms. Some of which we had to pick ourselves.  All opinions are our own, as always. Really? You had doubts? Please.

By Mike J. ~ 2 Comments

Make Your Own Fast and Easy Salad Dressings and Sauces

 

What is “salad dressing”, really?  It’s a sauce. Dressings are great to add flavor – not just to cold veggies – but to hot ones, as well. And meats. Even tofu and other meat substitutes. You don’t have to restrict yourself to those expensive bottles lining the shelves of your grocery store, either. With a minimum of effort (and I really mean a minimum), you can literally throw your own together.  And you know what’s in it!

I can’t take credit for this handy infographic (I’m artistically-impaired), but it beautifully illustrates the point that some things, like salad dressings, are easily made yourself in just a couple of minutes.  All you need is a jar and a quick look around your pantry:

Simple Vinaigrette Infographic Thanks to CookSmarts for creating this awesome infographic!

For even more variety, try some unsweetened fruit juice, like pomegranate or orange juice, as your acid instead of vinegar.

Of course, I recommend the Freakin’ Flamingo jam flavor of your choice to create your own unique dressings. ;-)   For example, whisk a spoonful of Freakin’ Flamingo Piña Colada jam into that Asian dressing recipe in the graphic for instant sweet and sour chicken or tofu.

This is just vinaigrettes. You can make your own creamy dressings using the same formula. Think of mayonnaise as your “oil”, and buttermilk, ketchup, even pickle juice, as your “acid”:

Ranch dressing can be made by stirring or whisking together mayonnaise and buttermilk, plus a bit of sweetener (sugar or xylitol) to taste. Toss in a bit of finely chopped (or dehydrated) chives or other herb you like.

Blue Cheese Dressing: Mayo, buttermilk, some crumbled blue cheese, to taste.

Thousand Island (or Russian) Dressing:  Mayo, ketchup (or Freakin’ Flamingo Spicy Tomato jam) – just enough to make it your desired shade of pink – plus a couple of tablespoons of pickle relish (include the juices).

Tartar Sauce for fish:  Mayo, pickle relish & a pinch of paprika.

This is just a jumping-off point to create your own signature dressings and sauces with little effort, but tons of flavor!

What’s your favorite?

By RJ Flamingo ~ 3 Comments

Spiced Pumpkin Chickpea Stew for #ElleAPalooza

 

Pumpkin Chickpea Stew

I’m following up last week’s post with my official contribution to #ElleAPalooza.  Today’s post is a recipe for Spiced Pumpkin Chickpea Stew, inspired by Elle of Elle’s New England Kitchen.  As a tribute to my friend, LeeAnn (a/k/a Elle), I’m joining with a number of other food bloggers who count her as friend, in picking a recipe from her blog this weekend, and cooking or baking our own version of it.

For me, this wasn’t a new concept.  Elle inspired me all the time. Sometimes I blogged about it, but usually I didn’t.  Here are some Maple Blueberry Muffins that I adapted from one of her recipes, to add more whole grains and cut the sugar.  Most recently, I took her “Copycat Campbell Tomato Soup” recipe, and made it into Vegetarian Vegetable Soup with Mini-Grilled Cheese Croutons.  And she cheered me on, every step of the way.

This stew was cooked on Thursday. I photographed the leftovers (like all stews, this one only gets better with age) last night (Saturday). I edited the photos this morning.  I’ve been procrastinating writing this post as long as I can. I feel like, once I click the “Publish” button, it’s final. It’s real. Elle’s gone, and with her, her original voice and enthusiasm for cooking and baking, and her passion to motivate her readers to dare try something new in the kitchen. But I know she isn’t really gone. Elle lives on the hearts of those who love her, and you can still hear her voice in her blog and the blogs of all of us participating in our #ElleAPalooza.  See the list at the bottom of this post, to see who else is blogging #ElleAPalooza, and what inspired them!

Pumpkin_Chickpea_Stew_500-3

Spiced Pumpkin Chickpea Stew

Adapted from Spiced Pumpkin Chickpea Stew at Elle’s New England Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 large leek (or 2 smaller ones), white & light green parts only
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 large red potatoes
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 (15 oz) cans chickpeas, drained
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 egg yolks*
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling!)
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • (about) 1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 freshly ground chipotle chili (Or chile. Fine.) *
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/4 cup milk*
  • Additional salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Start out by prepping your vegetables. Cut off the dark green top of the leek and discard. Slice the leek lengthwise and rinse well. Slice the halves thinly in half-rounds.  Peel and smash the garlic cloves, then mince them.  Scrub the potatoes and cut them into a roughly 1/2″ dice.

Heat the olive oil in a 6 quart soup or stock pot, over medium-high heat. Add all of the vegetables, sprinkle with a good pinch of kosher salt. Stir and sweat the vegetables, cooking until the leeks are softened, about 5 – 10 minutes.  Add the chickpeas, vegetable broth and pumpkin. Stir well and bring the mixture up to a gentle simmer.

Measure the yogurt into a medium bowl. Whisk in the egg yolks and the turmeric until well combined and the mixture is very liquid.  Slowly add the yogurt mixture to the simmering pot, stirring well.  Add the spices, honey, and milk.

Simmer for an additional 10 minutes.  Check the potatoes for doneness.  Taste to see if you need to add any additional salt and/or pepper.  When the potatoes are firm, but completely cooked through, you’re ready to serve.

Makes about 4-6 main dish servings.  Serve hot with a little crusty bread and a green salad, and you’ve got a complete, filling and satisfying meal.

Pumpkin_Chickpea_Stew_500-2

*Notes – I’m not married to the inclusion of egg yolks in this recipe. The chickpeas give you plenty of protein, and between the yogurt, pumpkin, and cooking the potatoes directly in the stew, you’ve got lots of thickening power, so skip the yolks if you want to.  If it’s still not thick enough for you, give it a couple of smacks with your handy-dandy stick blender, or if you don’t have one of those, a potato masher. But not too much! You want lots of whole chickpeas and potato chunks in there for texture.

Elle’s version of this recipe contained curry powder and adobo powder for spicing. Both of these are spice blends (one Indian, the other Mexican/Latin) which, between them, also contain cumin, garlic, turmeric, cinnamon, and some form of hot pepper.  Which is kind of redundant.  So, I merely broke down these two spice blends, increasing the amounts of some of the individual spices, and added the paprika (contained in adobo), rather than make you go looking for something else at the store.  If you don’t have dried chipotle, feel free to use some other chile (chili) or its powder form that you do have.  Or none at all.  It’s not about the heat – it’s about flavor!

 

This part stolen blatantly from Heather over at He Cooks She Cooks, who stole it from Jenn over at Leftover Queen:  If you would like to join the food blogging community in supporting Elle’s family, please join Friends of Elle on Facebook to learn more about the auction be held to benefit her family. It is also a place where you can share your thoughts about Elle and gather with friends old and new who all loved this beautiful woman.

Other Blogs Participating in #ElleAPalooza

He Cooks She Cooks
Taste as you Go
Kudos Kitchen
Gourmet Traveller 88
Leftover Queen
Leftover Queen post 2
SpaBettie
SpaBettie Post 2
The Spiced Life
Food Lust People Love
Girl Chef
All That’s Left are the Crumbs
Savory Moments
The Feast Within
A-Z Cookbook
Vanilla Sugar Blog
Creative Culinary
Zebot’s Kitchen
FamFriendsFood
Dine and Dish
The Adventures of Kitchen Girl
And Then I Do The Dishes
No Fear Entertaining
Mommy? I’m Hungry!
Baking and Boys
Flanboyant Eats

By RJ Flamingo ~ 13 Comments
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