Mystic Meals Presents…Mystic Seasonings!!!

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

In this unprecedented and crazy time we’re all living through, the one thing that’s been going on and on in my mind is how now, more than ever, it’s essential to keep being creative and reaching for something new. Keeping ourselves occupied with the possibilities and opportunities that lay hidden underneath the overwhelming realities that we’ve all had to conform to. Sometimes in the depths of the negatives that may be surrounding us, it’s hard to see the positives that are also right there in front of us as well. So with that being said, I’ve decided to roll the dice and take one hell of a risk. Starting my own small business selling my own unique line of seasoning spice blends. Mystic Seasonings. Meow!

It’s funny how the best ideas can literally be right under your nose. Throughout this pandemic, I’ve been asked countless times by friends and family for recipe ideas, and ways to jazz up the ordinary meals that so many of us have to think about and make every day since we’re going out less and less and preparing our food at home. As a Chef, it’s definitely pushed me to try new things, styles of cuisine, methods of cooking, etc. I love all kinds of food… From all over the world. So why not create some groovy as hell seasonings, using everything I’ve learned about while cooking in both professional kitchens and at home? And pass that on to you meows so you can create the most epic mystic meals and make those food memories that’ll get everyone in your realm coming back for seconds and thirds!

So here’s the gist…

My line of spice blends are unique for several reasons. There are no fillers, anti caking agents, or msg. Every batch is made to order and hand crafted by yours truly, so we’re talking small batches, here! Keeping the product as fresh and as potent as possible, while using high quality ingredients such as Spanish Saffron, Molasses Powder, Himalayan Sea Salt, Peppercorns (not that pre ground sawdust pepper stuff), toasted and hand ground herbs and spices, and lots and lots of TLC. Each seasoning blend has it’s own signature flavor profile making it easy to incorporate into the dishes you already know and even easier to start making something fun, exciting, and new to add to your cooking repertoire for anyone at ANY kitchen skill level.

The mixes are… :

Mystic Adobo –

If you’ve ever used Goya products, then you’ll already be familiar with this all purpose seasoning blend. You can literally sprinkle this stuff into anything you choose. It adds that little extra something that goes beyond just salt, pepper, and garlic. I use it all the time and I hope you will, too!

Mystic Sazon/Taco Seasoning-

This one’s a bit of a game changer in the kitchen. Wanna give your food that Hispanic touch? From Spanish style yellow rice, to soups, stews, beans, marinades, taco and fajita night… this spice blend is it! With a distinct Saffron flavor and notes of cumin and coriander, it’s another mix that’ll soon become a staple in your kitchen for sure!

Mystic Jerk Blend-

Afro Caribbean cuisine is a huge part of my Puerto Rican/Colombian roots and growing up in The Bronx, Jamaican food was everywhere. My Jerk Seasoning is the perfect balance of aromatics like cinnamon, cloves, and allspice, with that spicy kick of cayenne and scotch bonnet pepper, rounded out by the deep sweetness of cane sugar and molasses. Meows… It’s sooooo goood!! Marinate your chicken, fish, seafood, vegetables, and tofu in this stuff and I guarantee you’ll be like, DAMN!!! That’s some tasty grub!

Jerk Chicken with Toasted Coconut Rice and Sweet Plantains

Each seasoning blend comes in 7oz reusable glass jars with 2 different lid options, one made of cork, and the other a clear grip top plastic. They also come with a cute little wooden spoon attached by twine, for that homemade touch so you can sprinkle the spices on your food! I think they’re adorable and the fact that you can repurpose the jars once their empty is pretty neat. The gift that keeps on giving!

Mystic Adobo Seasoning Jar with lids

Right now I’m taking preorders on my social media platforms, Mystic Meals Instagram DM, and Facebook messaging ( under Mystic Meals, of course ) via PayPal. These pretty ladies are currently selling as a trio set for $35.00 plus $10.00 shipping. I do have some international customers as well and will have to figure out the shipping costs depending upon where you meows are in the world, but I’ll get them to you!!

My goal is to set up ordering here on this website by adding a PayPal button or online store. I’m shooting for the first week of October 2020! I’m super excited for you all to try them out and get cooking with them!! It’s an honor for me to be even a small part of your kitchen routine and there’s more unique, crazy, and delicious seasonings on the way! I’ve got big dreams, meows and I am aiming HIGH! 😛 Thank you all for coming along on this journey with me. I hope this next culinary chapter will inspire us to keep pushing through and challenging ourselves to try new dishes and take a leap of faith, no matter what it is!

Thank you all so much for being here, reading my madness, and for all of the encouragement and support. It means more than I could ever say or write in words.

Until we eat again, mystic friends… Be safe out there. Stay well, and take care!

Cheers, hugs, and meows!

Xo Nikki Meow 😘✨🖤🔮😻

Cooking Through The Rona…

Soba Noodle Salad with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Greetings, Mystic Meows! 

It sure has been a mighty long time since I’ve written anything here, and I hope that wherever you are, and whenever you read this, that you and yours are healthy, safe, and doing as well as can be. The world sure has changed quite a bit, huh? We’ve all been going through so much emotional upheaval and strife, to put it mildly. Yet in the midst of all of this madness, there is still the need to persevere, adapt, and adjust, so that we can create our own sense of stability and certainty, at least within the safety and comfort of our homes. Even in the most desperate of circumstances, there still lies the opportunities to find our inner power through being creative and finding those therapeutic and uplifting capabilities that we may have forgotten that we possess.

Caldo de Pollo/ Spanish Style Chicken Soup

For meow, as you all know, cooking and food itself is beyond therapy for me. It is my life. My passion. My happy place. The kitchen is where I am most in my element and where I (almost 😜) always know what I’m doing without question. My chosen profession and industry has taken quite a hit throughout the course of The Rona, and I, along with my friends, family, and colleagues have had to literally redefine how we choose to identify ourselves in the culinary world. Carve a new path so to speak… (pun intended… get It? Carve??) Anymeow, this of course applies to every single one of us. Not only are Chefs like myself finding new ways to cook, but so are you, right? I mean, meows went straight to the comfort food zone and started cooking like they may never have before. And It. Is. AWESOME!!!

Spaghetti with Meatballs

Deep Dish Pizza

I’ve never seen so many meows flock to their kitchens and begin the process of attempting to try their hand at cooking and creating things they’ve never made before, in particular, baking! So much so that for a minute, like toilet paper, yeast was hard to find on store shelves, to the dismay of many of my culinary brethren… At least that’s how it was when all of this first started and we had to shelter in place. The emphasis on cooking at home and finding new, interesting, and creative ways to nourish ourselves has brought back a sense of simplicity and purity to the craft that I welcome wholeheartedly. And The Rona has forced meows to REALLY take a long hard look at their own eating habits from top to bottom because now more than ever, nourishment is key, as it always has been, to our health and well being.

Chicken and Cheese Enchiladas 

 

As for meow, I’ve been keeping things rather simple in the kitchen, or as simple as it seems to me… and have found myself cooking and craving a lot of dishes that remind me of childhood. Is that happening to anyone else? Or are you being a fancy pants cooking up those hard to pronounce meals? 😛 Or trying foods you’ve always wanted to try like the Beyond Meats or switching things up from maybe eating less meat and more vegetable based and meatless meals? Have you tried gardening and growing your own fruits, veggies, and herbs? Are you crafting more? Making your own clothes, masks, soaps, etc? I WANNA KNOW! If nothing else, I hope that you meows are at least attempting to try something new and different to keep things moving forward and interesting to help keep your minds occupied and in a positive frame.

Sweet Chili Shrimp

And keep on cooking!! Take those food pics and post them! Inspire other meows to go to the store and whip up something new and tasty! Share those precious recipes, too! Your mom’s meatloaf, your dad’s killer kick ass chili, your grandma’s pie dough or cookies, salsa, pastas, rice, soups, potatoes, jams, jellies, pickled veggies, salad dressings, fried chicken, tofu, dumplings, homemade nut milks, gluten free, vegan, plant based, meat based, home based!!! Whatever it may be, share it with the world. You never know how that one little pic or recipe might make someone’s next meal a game changer. I mean, we all still gotta eat! Until our next mystic meal… Take good care of yourselves and Happy Cooking!

Cheers, hugs, and meows!

xo Nikki 🥰✨🔮💕

Follow meow on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Tiktok @siknik13 and @mysticmeals

All photos are MINE!!! 🤣😛😉

5 Ingredient Beer Bread! Half Baked Harvest Recipe

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

I don’t know about you meowsers, but I enjoy baking quite a bit. I suppose as far as bread is concerned, most meows feel either intimidated by it and think it’s too hard or takes too much time. Thankfully there’s a world full of easy bread recipes that don’t require a high level of cooking skills and only use a handful of ingredients to pull it together. And I’m here to encourage you to try your hand at it with a recipe that was created by one of my favorite cooking blogs, Half Baked Harvest by Teighan Gerard.

This recipe that I used is I believe the original posting from 2013, and it’s exactly what it says. Five ingredients. That’s all you need. Ready? Flour, baking powder, brown sugar, salt, and 12oz of your favorite beer. That’s it. 1,2,3,4,5. Sounds easy enough, right? Next all you need is a large bowl for mixing, a wooden spoon or spatula, and a loaf pan to bake it in.

Here’s where it got interesting for me. To start, I don’t own a bread pan or loaf pan, but I do own a set of mini loaf pans from Chicago Metallic that I adore! So that’s what I used. So if you’re in the same boat as I was as far as the actual cooking equipment is concerned, you’ll have to make the necessary adjustments and consider if it will add or subtract in the amount of baking time. I also own a ton of round cake pans, which I could have used instead of the mini’s, but I wanted to stick as close to the recipe as possible. My little loaves took about 45 minutes to bake with 15 minutes of rest time before slicing.

Next was the actual consistency of the dough or “batter” as it’s referred to in the original recipe. I feel that the wording of a recipe is vital when there’s a lack of visual references. Thankfully HBH has several video tutorials out there so you can see what I mean. When I was mixing everything together after being sure I measured everything to the tee, my end result was in between a dough and a batter. I felt compelled to add a bit more water to it a little at a time being mindful not to over-mix the base to get it looking closer to what I had seen in the videos.

And this is why often times, what we see at first isn’t always what we get when trying out certain recipes because there are so many variances that contribute to those subtle differences. The size of measuring cups for example really do vary from brand to brand and not all are created equal. So although my spidey senses told me that my bread base was a tad on the thicker side, I forged ahead and baked away.

Here’s the link to the recipe : 5 Ingredient Beer Bread

The end result? Happiness. I was pleasantly surprised by how these little kitties turned out. The outer crust was crisp and chewy, and the inside of the bread was dense, but soft and almost cake like. A hearty bread for sure. I yielded 3 mini loaves out of the recipe. The beer I used was the 805 brand which has a nice flavor that isn’t too malty or hoppy, if you know what I mean. I served the first loaf with honey, butter, and my homemade strawberry preserves which was super yummy! The bread itself is very satisfying on its own and is pretty filling after a couple of slices. I’ll definitely be making this recipe again. Mystic Meals approved! 🥰✨I also made little sandwiches with butter, honey, turkey, and cheese and it was EPIC! Sorry, no pics! They were gone in a flash! 😋🙌🏼

Half Baked Harvest has a few variations of this bread recipe. In the most recent one I’ve seen, Tieghan is using a darker beer and honey in place of brown sugar, so be sure to check out the site and try the recipe that speaks to you the most. This one seemed to be pretty neutral and again, EASY, which is awesome! This bread goes with both sweet and savory toppings, which is also a huge plus. I bet it’ll be great sliced and toasted with a soup or for breakfast with eggies! I hope you meows give it a try! There you have it, dear reader. Quick, easy, simple, and delicious. Just how we like it around here. 😉 Until we eat again… Happy Cooking!

Cheers, Hugs, and Meows!

xo Nikki 💕✨

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Plant Based Nutrition and Skincare With Arbonne

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

I’m always fascinated and intrigued by all of the food related products out there on the market that promote wellness and self care. Let’s be honest… Some of these brands aren’t very tasty, but are really good at convincing us consumers that we “need” their products in our lives and have to incorporate them into our daily routines because they’re better for us and easier to use, or just as good and comparable to what we ingest and put into and on our bodies, and use thought provoking catch phrases and words like “Environmentally Friendly”, “Non GMO”, “Vegan” or the new high key deal maker… “Plant Based”. So I decided to start doing a bit more investigative research on this particular subject since food is how I make my living, and as a chef it’s part of my job to be as educated on the subject as possible, and found some incentive from a former co-worker who started using, selling, and promoting a wellness brand that has been around since the 60’s, long before “Going Green” was even a popular thing to say, do, and live by. Hence my introduction to the brand, Arbonne.

I first met Roslyn Aguiar several years ago while we both worked at a restaurant in Visalia, Ca. She’s such a vivacious woman with a great and bubbly personality, and we got along really well. We’ve kept in touch over the years and follow each other on social media. She first started using Arbonne not long after she got married. She and her husband being in newlywed marital bliss put on what Roslyn refers to as “happy weight” and was seeking a way to get her health and weight back on track.

A friend of hers was the regional Vice President for Arbonne and at first Roslyn thought that the products weren’t for her and honestly felt too good for it. You know… “I don’t need that stuff”. 3 1/2 years later, Roslyn had gained 30 pounds and was seeking a way to start losing weight and becoming healthier, so she decided to take the plunge and try one of their Healthy Living Kits, which is a 30 day supply of various protein powders, shakes, and detox teas to help kick start your body into better overall gut health and improve your metabolism. Roslyn was pleasantly surprised by how much she actually enjoyed the taste of the powders, drinks, and teas, and how after the first couple of weeks, she as well as her family noticed the difference in her overall appearance, and well being, as she was beginning to suffer silently from depression due to her weight gain and food intake, which led her to give Arbonne a try and see if it could help to improve things from the inside out. And for her it really did. It made a marked difference in not just her physical health, but more importantly, her mental health as well. She felt invigorated, her mood was elevated and had more incentive to partake in and enjoy the simple pleasures in every day life. A walk outside, the sunshine, engaging more fully with other people. She had gained her confidence back and she credits Arbonne for helping her get her life back to a better place than she had been living before. It was her personal journey with it and her experience that prompted her to become a consultant for the company, and share her story and belief in Arbonne and their products with as many people as possible.

It’s very easy to take for granted how much the foods we consume and the things we put on our bodies can have profound affects on our state of minds and physical fitness. Our skin is the largest organ we all have and things are very easily absorbed through it. It only takes 26 seconds to be exact. All the preservatives, sugars and other chemicals in the foods we eat truly does have influence over our health. So now more than ever, the better educated we are about what fuels our bodies and keeps our skin hydrated and healthy, the better our quality of life should end up being. Arbonne is trying to set the example and lead the way to an alternative with all natural ingredients that helps to achieve a better state of body and mind by providing products that claim to help us try to become better versions of ourselves by offering a line of wholesome goods that simply promotes the idea of wellness. Thus making us more aware of the natural ingredients and make our own comparisons as consumers. It’s crazy how many chemicals, preservatives, and by-products are in most of the every day items we use and put on our skin! We can achieve similar results without all the fillers and additives and research Arbonne’s range of supplements and skin care that are… Vegan, Plant Based, Non GMO, Not Tested On Animals, and Kosher.

I can say that although I haven’t tried it yet, I have seen how Roslyn’s appearance has changed since she started using Arbonne, and how much happier with herself she seems. Her hair is longer and more luscious than it was before, her skin is glowing, and she just looks better than she ever has! I’m waiting on my 7 day sample pack to arrive in the mail so I can see for myself what these protein powders and energy fizz drinks taste like and if there’s any difference in how I feel. Will I have more energy? Will the shakes be satisfying enough to get me through the day? We shall soon find out, dear reader… I am extremely curious. So I’ll have to update you meows in another follow up blog about my results from living a week on Arbonne. As with anything, everyone has different experiences and results when using any kind of supplement, and what works for you might not work for me and vice versa. I’m not looking for a miracle here, but I am looking for better alternatives to things such as pill vitamins and vitality boosters that I can incorporate into my already existing routine. It’s worth a shot.

If you want to learn more about Arbonne and the products they offer contact Roslyn Aguiar and follow her on Instagram so you can see for yourselves the changes the products have made for her and others. If you contact her via text or DM using the code MEOW619 (not an affiliate link, btw…) she’ll wave the $29.00 sign up fee. So check it out and see what you think! They also have make up, too! I was surprised by how many products they offer, and was also impressed. Perhaps you might find something that speaks to you and compels you to give them a go! Thank you meows for stopping by! And I’ll keep you posted about my results for sure! Until we eat again… Happy Cooking! Hey, it’s my catch phrase… Reading is brain food! 😛

Cheers, Hugs, and Meows!

xo Nikki ✨💕

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Photos courtesy of renewed.roslyn and Google images

Make Crunchy Onion Rings Like A Boss!

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

Do you ever just crave something fried, like french fries, fried chicken, or onion rings? I’ve had some wicked fried food cravings these days and I decided to bite the culinary bullet and go for it! I have to admit… It took me a long time to warm up to homemade onion rings because I grew up eating and still love eating what I refer to as the “cheapie” onion rings. You know the ones… chopped up pieces of onions mixed with whatever fillers or batter they use to make them so perfectly round and tasty? The kind you get at Burger King, an old school greasy spoon Diner, or from the frozen section at the grocery store? Hey… We all have those guilty pleasure snacks, right? It might not be the best stuff to eat, but then again, I’m not eating this stuff every day, either so… Meow!

Onion rings are incredibly easy to make and most of us have the ingredients for preparing them right in our cupboards. Flour, baking soda, salt, pepper, a bit of paprika paired with some milk and eggs, along with those trusty onions are all you need, with oil, of course… although I go an extra step and coat them with breadcrumbs for that added crunch factor that I love. I suppose the next question would be, what kind of onions work best? In theory basically any type of onion will work, but I find that some kinds yield better taste and results than others. I typically use yellow or white onions, and like to use ones that are in between medium and large in size. While you can of course use the whole onion for rings, I find that saving the smaller inner rings to be chopped up and used in other recipes works best for me. The larger outer rings make for easier frying, anyways.

You’d be surprised by how many onion rings you can get out of just one bulb. At least a dozen if not a little more. Depending on how many meows you’re feeding, if cooking just for yourself, I’d stick with one. If feeding a crowd, I would use 2 to 4 onions. That all depends on how wiley you’re feeling in the kitchen! This recipe yields a fair amount of batter for using just one onion, and can be easily doubled and tripled if using more. I hope you give these a try and have some fun frying away!

** Food for Thought : The other bit of advice I have while you’re frying is to not let the oil become too hot otherwise the rings will cook too quickly and become too dark. Some adjusting of the heat and fry time will be mastered once you start to cook them. And I would fry in small batches, doing 4 to 5 rings at a time to have more control over how they fry and getting that golden brown color so you’ll have better end results. **

Crunchy Onion Rings

One medium to large sized yellow or white onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick and separated into rings ( peeled of course…)

3/4 cup of All Purpose Flour

1 Tbls baking powder

1 heaping teas. of paprika

2 Tbls. of cornstarch

1 teas. ground pepper

1 teas. salt

1 Whole Egg

3/4 cup of milk

Breadcrumbs for coating

Vegetable, Canola, or your favorite oil for frying

1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, egg, baking powder, cornstarch, paprika, milk, salt and pepper. Mix together until you have a smooth and slightly thick batter. If too thick, add a splash more milk. If too thin, add a bit more flour one teaspoon at a time until desired thickness.

2. Add about 4 onion rings at a time to the batter. Meanwhile in a medium sized pot or preferred frying pan, heat up the oil over medium heat adding just enough oil so that the rings will float.

3. Thoroughly coat the rings in the batter, allow some excess to drip off and coat the battered onion rings with the breadcrumbs and fry immediately for about 2 minutes per side until nice and golden brown. Adjust the heat of the pan so the rings won’t burn. Once browned, remove and set on a plate with paper towels. Serve these bad boys with your favorite ketchup or bbq sauce and munch your heart out!

I love to eat these on their own, but also serve them with burgers and sandwiches, and these also reheat really well in the oven, too! So no worries if you have some left over, but I doubt you will!! And there you have it, dear reader! Another delicious recipe to help bring your next mystic meal to a new level of awesomeness! Until we eat again… Thanks for stopping by and Happy Cooking!

Cheers, Hugs, and Meows!!

Xo, Nikki 💕✨

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Beyond Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

Ok. I’m not in any way vegan or vegetarian, but as a Chef who loves to eat, um… almost anything, I’ve really grown to love the Beyond Meat line of plant-based products and am super excited to try their latest offering Beyond Beef, which tastes, looks like, and can be used just as you would ground beef.

I’m already a fan of the Beyond Burgers, meat crumbles and chicken strips, and recently my local grocery store started carrying the Beyond Sausage Hot Italian flavor and I grabbed it like a mad woman! I was super excited to try it and immediately my creative brain went to work on the countless variations of yumminess I could prepare with it. Hence the title of this here blog post 😉

When I go grocery shopping, I usually have a list of the things I actually need, but mostly I just wander the produce and meat aisles and see what jumps out and inspires me. I spotted some gorgeous looking Crimini ( baby bella ) mushrooms and knew exactly what I was going to make. I grabbed some spinach and a chunk of deliciously nutty Pecorino Romano cheese and off I went.

So here it is, dear reader… My recipe for these absolutely tasty morsels that I hope you make and enjoy as much as I did. If I didn’t have to share them, I could have easily devoured them all by myself! Meow!

Beyond Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

12 large mushroom caps ( reserve the stems)

7oz. (2 links) Beyond Sausage

1/2 cup small diced onion

1 large clove chopped garlic

3 cups fresh chopped spinach

1/3 cup breadcrumbs

2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

3/4 cup small diced fresh Pecorino Romano cheese

2 Tablespoons olive oil or butter

Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Wash the mushrooms thoroughly. Remove the stems and chop them up as small as you can. In a sauté pan or skillet, add the olive oil or butter on medium heat. Crumble the 2 sausage links and add it to the pan along with the chopped mushroom stems, onions, and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring and breaking up the sausage, cooking until the onions become translucent.

Add the chopped spinach and sauté until it becomes wilted. Lightly season with salt and pepper, being careful not to over-season the mixture since you’ll be adding the cheeses at the end, which are salty on their own. 😉

Add the breadcrumbs and Parmesan, mix until well-incorporated and remove from the heat. Add in the diced Pecorino cheese and mix well.

Taste and adjust the seasoning to your taste. Take a heaping Tablespoon of the stuffing and start spooning the mix in your mushroom caps, being very generous with the filling, You might have a bit of the mixture leftover depending on how many mushrooms you make.

Place the mushrooms on a sheet pan or baking dish and bake them uncovered for about 15 to 20 minutes depending how large or small the mushrooms are. Once they’re cooked, remove from the oven and take about 1/4 cup water and deglaze the sheet pan before plating the mushrooms. This will create a nice pan sauce for the shrooms. Plate them up, add a touch of salt to the pan sauce, pour over the mushrooms and serve!

I have to tell you that these were really, REALLY delicious! This by far is my favorite Beyond Meat product to date. The flavor and texture was just like pork sausage, and I’m glad I chose the ingredients the way I did, especially the Pecorino. ( Pats self on the back 😉)

I do hope you give these a try cause they are sooooo worth it and easy to prepare. Until next time… Happy eating and happy cooking!

Cheers, hugs & meows!

Xo, Nikki 💕

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Tumeric!

Hello there, Mystic Meows!

Occasionally I get the opportunity to submit a food related quote or two to a major online publication. I posted about this last year on social media when it was first published and figured I’d write about it here on Mystic Meals, since it’s such a great piece, especially looking back on it now and seeing how on point most of the predictions were.

One of Total Beauty s lifestyle contributors, Courtney Leiva, was working on a piece about 13 Food Trends and asked a series of food experts what they thought those foods would be. I chose Tumeric because I was seeing so many of my friends and colleagues not only cooking with it, but using it for its medicinal properties, inner wellness, and incorporating it into their beauty routines in unique and interesting ways. My part of the write up is the 13th ( my lucky number 😊) See below!

I hope you take a look at the article and see if you can spot some of the mentions from it that are trending now. Most of them are and more than a few of them are sure to make your mouth water to try them for yourself, if you haven’t already. I wonder what food beauty trends we’ll be talking about a year from now? Did someone say CBD in just about everything? So many possibilities! Happy cooking and happy reading!

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Cheers, hugs, & meows!

Xo Nikki Meow 💖✨

‘‘Tis the season!

Season’s Greetings, dear meows!

Wow! I can’t believe it’s December already! Where did the year go? One more month and then on to 2018! I don’t know about you meows, but 2017 was quite an interesting year for me. Lots of ups and downs, unexpected surprises, a lot of hard work and sacrifice, and a whole bunch of memories! Speaking of memories…

The holiday season is where eating, cooking, and food in general take center stage, at least for me 😉 This year for Thanksgiving, the roasted Turkey I made turned out exceptionally good. Literally picture perfect. See? 😉 ( pat’s self on the back… )

My secret? I dry brined the bird. It’s a great way to impart maximum flavor and ensuring crispy browned skin, while keeping the meat tender and juicy! Here’s a simple and easy dry brine rub that works wonders on Chicken & Turkey! For me, roasting low and slow, then turning up the oven temp towards the end really helps with the end results…

Dry Salt Brine Rub :

3 tablespoons kosher salt 

1 1/2 teaspoons dried herbs, such as thyme, sage, and rosemary, or blend

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 (14- to 16-pound) thawed whole turkey (not kosher or pre-salted)

The reason for not using a kosher bird is that they typically have a salted solution added to them. Try to find a bird that has no pre seasoning or solutions injected into it. Use half the amount of rub if you’re using a whole chicken instead of a turkey. Pat your bird dry before adding the rub. They key here is get the dry rub under the skin as best as you can, and using the rest all over the outside of the bird. Then let it rest in the fridge, uncovered for at least 24 hours and up to 3 days max. The process of osmosis will draw out the natural juices from the bird, and then miraculously the meat then reabsorbs them, basically seasoning itself from the outside in. So worth it!

This year for Christmas, I’m not sure what I’m going to make. I’m leaning towards cooking some of the ethnic dishes Colombians and Puerto Rican’s typically prepare around this time of year. Pernil, which is roasted pork shoulder, is always a crowd pleaser and perfect for feeding a ton of meows.

Accompanied by yellow saffron rice, beans, salad and a creamy flan for dessert? Yes, meow! I haven’t made a flan in a while and I hope I haven’t lost my touch!

What are some of your favorite Christmas foods to make? I’ll be back here soon with some more recipes that’ll be great for holidays and beyond! But before I go… Lest we forget to make a yummy cocktail for toasting to the season! I found this one on Pinterest and I’m definitely gonna make a batch of these!

Pomegranate Mules

2oz. Vodka

1oz. pomegranate juice

1 Tbls. pomegranate seeds

1 Tbls. lime juice

1 tsp. honey

1/2 cup ice

Ginger beer or ginger ale

sprig of rosemary

In a cocktail glass, stir together the vodka, pomegranate juice, seeds, lime juice, honey and ice. Top off with the ginger beer and add a sprig of rosemary to garnish.

Thank you meows for being here and I hope to hear from you! Happy Holidays and Happy Cooking!

Cheers, hugs & meows! Nikki 💖✨😻

Photo credits by Jay Luna, Google images, Micha Morton and Pinterest 😉

 The Gemini Kitchen!

Michele with Chef Susan Feniger
Greetings, dear meows! One of the things I love about writing this blog is being able to show off some of my most talented friends, such as this lovely lady I’m about to introduce you to.

I first met Michele Stueven a little over a year ago when she and her son, Erik Glode filmed an  interview with me at The Northridge Farmer’s Market here in Los Angeles. We became fast friends and bonded over our mutual love of farmers market fare, and of course… COOKING! She started out her career path in the world of journalism, and now Michele has her own catering business called The Gemini Kitchen, and has quite the following on social media. From her enticing photographs of the dishes she creates, to showcasing the flora and fauna that captures her eye on her adventures throughout Southern California, Michele has a keen sense and artistic style, with a knack for being extremely creative in the kitchen.


Michele is a true Cali girl with a unique perspective and connection to its landscape. She graciously let me pick her brain a bit and walks us through her journey into how she became the culinary maven she is today. She even gave us a wonderful dinner menu with recipes that embrace the warm weather months perfectly! Enjoy! 😊

MM:  Tell us a bit about yourself, Michele? How did you first get started in the field of journalism? How has that industry managed to keep up with the ever changing ways in which we receive information? 

MS: I’m a native Angeleno and have lived here all my life. I grew up on the beach in Santa Monica, only child to German immigrants. We spent summers in Germany and traveling Europe, a tradition I’ve continued with my two sons. Spending most of my time at a relative’s restaurant in Bavaria – the Tuscany of Germany – I became fascinated and obsessed with food and cooking. My love for salads and and seasonal ingredients actually sprouted from the country of beer and sausage.

I was a journalism major at Cal State Northridge and went on to work for the Associated Press as a photo editor, a German Media Group asst. correspondent and then photo editor/video producer and reporter for People Magazine. With the slow death of the magazine world, I ventured out to see what the internet could do for me. My love of food, flowers and photography gave birth to the Gemini Kitchen almost exactly one year ago. I never seem to run out of subjects and am giddy about the fact that I don’t have to run anything by layers of editors. I have the final say in everything, can post what and whenever I feel like it. The final decision is always my own and not by result of committee. Don’t miss that at all.The crazy irony here is that the same social media explosion that resulted in the death of print media and journalism is the reason I’ve even been able to do this and reinvent myself. Sometimes you have to embrace the enemy to find your peace.

MM:  The Gemini Kitchen is a great name! How did you come up with it, and what lead you to finally turn your lifelong passion for cooking into a catering business? Who are some of the Chefs that inspire you? 

MS: To supplement and inspire the blog (and hello, to make money) I decided to put years of catering family and school functions for hundreds of people to some use and get cooking. My best friend (a fellow Gemini) was going through a horrid divorce at the time and has never cooked a day in her life. She needed food and I needed a job, so I became her personal chef. I began catering events for her and soon by word of mouth, started gathering a stable of regular clients.
Having grown up with the dawn of California cuisine, I’m most inspired by women chefs like Suzanne Goin, Alice WatersSusan Feniger, Nancy Silverton. I also like Giada De Laurentiis a lot, because she cooks healthy and sensibly and is a local Angeleno like me. Even though I do need my occasional cheeseburger and fries, I’m not much for over the top food.

 

Michele with Chef Giada De Laurentiis
 

MM: You also take beautiful photographs of the things you come across at various farmers markets, and have a great eye for details in nature. I love the pictures of the flowers you see on your travels that you post on social media. Is photography another way for you to express your artistic side?

MS: Photography has been a part of my life forever. In fact my Journalism career started when a local newspaper photographer took a picture of me on the beach in a bikini (still have that foto.) I hounded him to introduce me to his editor for an internship which lead to my first paying magazine job. I like to treat my blog like a magazine layout , from my many moons in the print world.

MM: You document your culinary travels and film quite a bit of what you do. Ever consider having your own show? If so, what would you want it to be like?  Any plans on writing a cookbook in the future?

MS: I would love my own show and I’ve already been toying with some book ideas. I’d like them to be very visual and sort of a combination food ingredient and travelogue theme. I’d like to be the Huell Howser of Food – picking strawberries and tomatoes in Oxnard, chasing pigs in San Diego, fishing for ling cod in the channel islands. Then offer recipes from those adventures.

MM: What are some of your favorite go to types of cuisine to cook? As a caterer, what would you say are some of your greatest hits on the menu? 

MS:   I like to cook seasonal and healthy. I roast and bbq a lot. People love vegetables these days and I’ve noticed that clients are interested in finger foods and more about grazing and having a variety of items to choose from. My antipasti platters are a huge seller, a combination of veggies, meats and cheeses and whatever happens to look good at the farmers market. Kabobs and finger sandwiches are big right now: Tarragon Chicken Salad Finger Sandwiches with Cranberries, Salmon Mousse Finger Sandwiches.

Antipasto Plates
 

MM: With summer rapidly approaching, I’m sure you’ve got some yummy tricks up your sleeve! I would love it if you’d share some recipes with us! What would you suggest as a 3 course menu that celebrates the season? And what wines or drinks would you recommend? 

MS:  Gazpacho, Cedar Plank Halibut with Black Lemon Brown Rice, Strawberry and Plum Crostada. J Vineyards Pinot Gris and some homemade Limoncello with the Crostada.

MM: Here’s Michele’s recipes for Cedar Plank Halibut with Black Lemon Brown Rice! 



Cedar Plank Halibut

Serves 6

6 pieces of halibut (salmon works too)
Olive Oil, Sweet or Spicy Paprika, Garlic Salt, 

2 lemons

2 cedar or other wood planks, available at most hardware and grocery stores including Whole Foods


Soak the planks in water according to package directions for about an hour, while you are heating up the BBQ on one side of the grill.


Rub the fish with olive oil and sprinkle with paprika and garlic salt. Once the grill is hot, dry the planks and place the seasoned fish on top. Place planks on the side of the barbecue that is not on fire. Cover and roast for about 15 – 20 minutes, until the halibut is firm to the touch. Check on it now and then. Just before you carefully remove from the grill, squeeze with generous amounts of fresh lemon juice.


Black Lemon Rice
2 cups rice
4 cups water

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. butter or olive oil

1 black lemon (also known as loomi, can be found at any market that specializes in Middle Eastern spices. It’s actually a lime that has been boiled and then left out in the sun to dry.)


Bring all ingredients to a boil and cover. Cook 20 minutes for white rice and 45 minutes for brown rice.)

 

MM:  Thank you so much! Sounds amazing! Can’t wait to try my hand at it! Yum! Speaking of courses, if you could describe yourself as a drink, appetizer, entree, and dessert, what would they be and why? 
MS: I’m a Greyhound (fast and nimble,) Ceviche (spicy and cool) Roasted Branzino (warm and delicate) Strawberries Macerated in Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar topped with Sour Cream (the two sides of a Gemini.)
MM: Great answers! Now… If you could have a dinner party with 10 guests, living or dead, famous or not, who would be on the guest list and what would you be serving? 

MS: My mom, dad, husband, sons, Father Paul, Maya Angelou, Mother Theresa, Joni Mitchell, Alfred Hitchock. All vegetarian, Indian-inspired.

MM: What a fantastic dinner party that would be! Alright, so if you had the opportunity to live anywhere in the world for a year, where would it be? 

MS: Lake Tahoe
MM: Nice! Tahoe’s a beautiful place. Ok. It’s top 5 time! Name your top 5 favorite: fruits, vegetables, and drinks!

MS: Fennel, Arugula, Onions, Grapefruit, Sapphire Gibson
MM:  Fried chicken, pizza, or cheeseburgers? 

MS: Cheeseburgers. That said, my favorite food is Mexican. Can eat it everyday and is a huge part of my inspiration, growing up in Southern California. Ole!

Thanks again Michele! Be sure to check out her Facebook page, The Gemini Kitchen to keep up with all of her latest info and social media posts! You can also find her on Instagram & Twitter! I hope this inspires you to get out there, take some risks, embrace the changes that come your way and turn those lemons life hands you into limoncello! And go check out your local farmers market! You never know what you’ll find… Happy Cooking!

Cheers, hugs & meows! 

Nikki Meow 💖✨😻

All photographs courtesy of Erik Glode Productions & Michele Stueven 😉

Full Moon Fever! 

Picture of the moon from the Apollo 11 Mission. Photo credit: NASA

How many times in your life have you said or heard the phrase, “It must be a full moon” 😉

Ever notice how crazy things seem to get around the full moon? Electronic gadgets and what not start to act all wonky, or have difficulty working… People start behaving strangely or are either hyper sensitive, really agitated or even angry at the world… Or all of the above! Even Earth’s creatures are effected by the power of the moon. As for me, I tend to start craving sweets like chocolate or cakes and stuff like that. I wonder why? 🤔

What is it about the full moon’s energy that has such an effect upon our planet and its inhabitants? Since it’s September, this month’s full moon is known as The Harvest Moon. And the last lunar eclipse of the year occurs this weekend, coinciding with full moon for a second time in 2016. So the energy level coming from the universe is amped up and emanating some powerful stuff! This is when we need to heed The Caterpillars advise to Alice when he tells her to “Keep your temper”. 😉 And I suppose to ask the universe for whatever help or guidance we may be in need of. Here are some interesting myths and theories about the Mystic powers and occurrences that our full moon provides… 


Before modern lighting, the bright light of the full moon was said to keep people up at night and cause sleep deprivation. Ever notice that you have difficulty falling or even staying asleep around the full moon? There’s definitely a biological connection for sure. 



They say that injuries and visits to the ER tend to increase around the full moon. Why this is, I have no idea! 😝Police even tend to report a higher amount of criminal activity on or around the full moon. People just start acting crazy, wilder even, or like “lunatics”. The term comes from the Roman Goddess of the moon, Luna, which is from the Latin “lucere”, meaning “to shine”. 



Then there’s good old Aunt Flow who likes to come around for a visit once a month, sometimes completely unannounced. RUDE! This doesn’t apply to all women of course… Perhaps it has something to do with the moon’s connection to fertility. The menstrual and lunar cycles are rather similar… 🤔 


February is the only month of the year that can occur without a full moon. The full moon happens every 29.5 days. 

The full moon is considered to be unlucky if it occurs on a Sunday, but lucky if on a Monday. Don’t ask me why… 😜 In fact, the name Monday is from the Middle English “Monenday” meaning, “moon day”. 


I mean, I could go on and on about that celestial satellite of ours. The moon, for whatever it’s purposes helps to bring balance to the force. You can’t have light without dark… Happiness without sadness… And so on. But as I always like to remind myself, knowledge is power. Whether it be fact, theory, or myth… It all helps us be more in tune with the cosmic forces that surround us and have a better understanding of the “stranger things” that happen to us from time to time. Man there are a lot of quotations in this blog, huh? 😝😝😝So next time the full moon rolls around be mentally armed and ready for a bit of restlessness and high energy. That way we’ll be able to deal with whatever gets thrown our way… Maybe. 😉 Thanks for hanging with me, you full moon babies! Cheers, hugs and meows! 


Nikki Meow


Pictures courtesy of NASA and Google 😊