Weekends are so 2009! Cinco de Mayo falls on a Monday (excuse me, lunes) this year, and that plays right into my margarita-mixing, tortilla-chip- dipping hands—because Monday is one of my favorite nights to entertain. For one thing, it makes scheduling a snap. Finding a weekend night when four or five friends are all available? Forget it. It seems the later in the week a get-together is scheduled, the more likely people are to cancel as the snowball of obligations threatens to roll over them. But on Monday nights, everyone seems to be free! Even more importantly, Mondays have a built-in low-key vibe—you’re practically prohibited from making a fuss. Here are my three relax-the-rules rules.
1. No Elaborate Hors D’Oeuvres
On Mondays, pre-dinner nibbles are anything I can pour directly from a bag, box or jar into a bowl, or unwrap and plunk on a plate: olives, fancy potato chips, cheese and crackers, salted nuts. For a Cinco de Mayo party, the classic is also a crowd-pleaser. Chips and salsa coming right up!
2. Serve a Make-Ahead Main Course
The beauty of Monday is it comes right after Sunday, a day I actually do have time to cook. The goal is to make a one-dish meal, like chili or chicken enchiladas, that I can simply heat up the next night when everybody arrives. That way, it’s no big deal if I race home from work at 6:45 and guests are due at 7.
3. Put Someone Else on Dessert Duty
I remind whoever it is that we’re on the no-shame-for-store-bought plan. If she gets the urge to bake brownies, fantastic. But if she wants to swing by the store for a few pints of ice cream? Make mine chocolate-chocolate chip, please!
My Margarita Musts:
1. A salt rim.
I’m easygoing about rocks versus no rocks—ice changes a cocktail’s strength, not its taste. But salt is mandatory to brighten and balance a margarita’s sweet-sour flavors.
2. Mid-shelf tequila.
Save the smooth, aged, expensive tequila for sipping on its own. Margaritas are best when they’re a little rough around the edges
3. Fresh lime juice.
You’re forgiven if you like your margaritas no-salt, top-shelf or served in a plastic tumbler shaped like a saguaro cactus, but back away from the bottled lime juice. If that’s all you’ve got, switch to beer!
It’s that time of the year again: Time for the BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival! Each year, the culinary excellence and culture of Charleston is celebrated during a weekend-long festival around the city. The extensive guest list includes some of the most locally and nationally renowned chefs, personalities, authors, pitmasters, farmers, drink masters and more. This year, Every Day with Rachael Ray will be a media sponsor and host two culinary events: A Sandwich Showcase and At Home with Celebrity Tastemakers, where guests can meet the celebrity chefs and authors behind some of the year’s hottest cookbooks, and sample some of their brand new recipes. As usual, our Editor-in-Chief, Lauren Purcell, will be attending the events, so be sure to check out her coverage on her Twitter and Instagram.
And just to get you excited, here are a few of Lauren’s pics from last year’s festival!
Now that our editor-in-chief, Lauren Purcell, is finally done with her kitchen renovation, she’s sharing her thoughts on what she would do differently next time.
1. Took a Vacation
During the dustiest, loudest, most disruptive phase of the renovation–the demolition of the old kitchen–I was at the beach. Smart move.
2. Relied on Expert Advice
Luckily for me, my designer understood my insane schedule, and for most big design decisions, she presented me with a carefully curated array of options (five paint colors, not 25), so I could make choices quickly.
3. Listed My Major Must-Haves
For instance, I clearly articulated my ideal appliance layout (fridge and range on the same wall); cabinet configuration (floor to ceiling); and flooring (cork). That helped streamline the process.
Shoulda Done This, Too
1. Planned Another Getaway Six Weeks Later
That’s around the time I really hit my limit on living in my bedroom on toaster-oven cuisine and takeout Thai. By the time I was able to emerge from my lady-cave, I was almost too cooped-up and cranky to appreciate the beautiful new space.
2. Picked a Few Details to Focus On
Making choices from a limited selection was definitely efficient. But as it turns out, the aspects I love most about my new kitchen are the ones I got more involved with–like the ceiling fixture, which I picked out after a long, enjoyable afternoon at the lighting showroom. In retrospect, I wish I had done the same with a few other items. I think I’d love my backsplash even more if the tile felt like my personal discovery.
3. Mentioned the Little Stuff
What I didn’t communicate very well were some of the details that make a big difference in my day-to-day. All my lights are on dimmers (big request), but the switches themselves aren’t the kind I prefer–too fiddly. of course, they’re easily changed. But next time, I’ll remember to bring up anything I’m opinionated about, not just the biggies. Wait! Did I just commit in writing to a next time?
Throughout the month of November, our editor-in-chief, Lauren Purcell, will be sharing Thanksgiving tips on the food section of NowThis News, as well as their instagram, @NowThisFood. Turkey tips in 15 seconds? It doesn’t get much easier than that–or more fun! Check out the intro video here on our Instagram and watch the first video on @NowThisFood, where Lauren explains how to roast a turkey without a rack!
I was that kid who in kindergarten was an avid earner of gold stars. In grade school, I cared a lot about my report card. Which may explain my dismay that years later I’m scraping by with a C-minus in kitchen renovation. I have yet to create the binder of inspiration pages torn from magazines that I imagine every “good” renovator has. It took me three weeks to sign off on the refrigerator my designer recommended because I insisted on seeing it in person. I’m the worst kind of perfectionist—one who’s also a procrastinator.
Or maybe I procrastinate because I’m a perfectionist. That’s the diagnosis I got when I confessed all to my “kitchen therapist,” ApartmentTherapy.com’s Maxwell Ryan. “You want the renovation to be perfect, but you’re also afraid it’s going to fail,” he said.
Maxwell has a hilarious (but scarily right-on) trick for grouping renovators into four types: Each is one of the Beatles. “You’re George Harrison, the idealist, the guy who took the band to India,” he teased me. “You’re making a simple kitchen renovation into a whole journey.” Luckily, he also told me what I could do about it—and I asked him for advice for the other Beatles, too, so you can identify yourself and make good progress on your own project.
–Lauren Purcell, Editor-in-Chief
What Type Of Renovator Are You?
Tell us below in the comments.
YOU’RE A TOE-TAPPER IF…
you’re take-charge and decisive but can be impatient. You’re fiery, with a bit of a temper.
YOUR SPIRIT-BEATLE: John Lennon. “He ran off with Yoko,” Maxwell says. “He pushed boundaries to get results.”
SO NOW WHAT? To avoid making snap decisions you might regret later, “readjust your time line to account for the fact that some details require a little reflection,” Maxwell says.
YOU’RE AN ENTHUSIAST IF…
you’re easy to please, sometimes too easy. Does “Oh, but I like all of them!” sound familiar?
YOUR SPIRIT-BEATLE:Paul McCartney. “He’s charming, always happy and never cared how much time it took to finish an album because he enjoyed the process,” Maxwell says.
SO NOW WHAT?Let your designer know that less is more—fewer options means you’ll make decisions more quickly.
YOU’RE A PERFECTIONIST IF…
you want—need!—things to be exactly right. So you agonize over even the smallest detail.
YOUR SPIRIT-BEATLE:George Harrison. “He was the introspective one, the idealist,” Maxwell says.
SO NOW WHAT?Hire a designer who’s also a perfectionist. That way you can trust that she’s picking the four best backsplash tiles from the hundreds of options. And you can stop obsessing.
YOU’RE A ZEN MASTER IF…
you believe in the slow and steady approach. You take direction well and appreciate support.
YOUR SPIRIT-BEATLE:Ringo Starr. “He’s calm and cool,” Maxwell says. “He’s probably got the lowest blood pressure, too!”
SO NOW WHAT? You may need a slight kick to get things moving, so set goals and deadlines with your designer—and then ask him to really push you to meet them.
Follow along with Lauren as she shares her progress and everything else, from the appliances to keeping costs down to injecting personality into one of the most important rooms in her home.
Last night I had dinner at Cole’s Greenwich Village. While I was waiting for my dinner guest, who was dragging himself through the swamp that is New York City in nearly 100-degree weather, I sat at the bar and tried the Cole’s Cocktail (I assumed if they’d named it after themselves, they’re pretty proud of it). Menu description: Crop organic vodka, ver jus, St. Germain, rosemary. It went down very easily, since I’d just come in from that same swamp myself.
A small starter sent out from the kitchen: Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Salad. It was made that night with burrata. Delicious. Which is why I forgot to take the photo first and all you get to see is the last bite.
Next came stuffed squash blossoms and Quick Seared Squid—both great. Forgive the picture quality. It’s dark in there! (And I never use the flash in a restaurant.)
Main course: cod with bok choy and maitake mushrooms in a red pepper broth. My guest had pork tenderloin with a bourbon glaze with corn succotash and black-eyed peas. We ended with a dessert brought over by Chef Daniel Eardley, who sat and talked for a while. Great guy, fun restaurant. If you’re in the New York City, go check it out. –Lauren Purcell, Editor-in-Chief
I love our Get Fresh column because, even though I freely confess to a dependency on Lay’s potato chips, I’m also a fresh fruit and vegetable enthusiast, especially in the summer. So I encourage you to check out (and tear out) “Get Fresh with Watermelon” in our July/August issue, which is full of fun facts and helpful tips.
What we didn’t have room to include is the recipe for my favorite watermelon cocktail. My sister, Anne, and I concocted it for our Sisters’ Secrets to Confident Entertaining newsletter long before I became editor of Every Day with Rachael Ray, but you guys are my priority now, so I’m sharing!
—Lauren Purcell, Editor-in-Chief
Makes 2 drinks
2 ounces fresh watermelon juice*
1 ounce vodka
½ ounce triple sec
½ ounce fresh lemon juice
Combine all the ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake 10 to 15 times to chill. Pour, with ice, into a glass rimmed with a mixture of half sugar, half salt.
Extra credit: Tint the sugar-salt mix with a couple of drops of red food coloring.
*To help you with portions: We bought a watermelon wedge that weighed about 2 1/2 pounds. That yielded about 4 cups of chunks. Puree those in the food processor (if you’re not using a seedless melon, please remove the seeds first), strain the mixture through a sieve, and you get about 1 1/2 cups of juice—enough for six cocktails. For kids and designated drivers, the watermelon juice, with or without a squeeze of lemon, is great straight up or mixed with seltzer.
More related content:
Get Fresh…with Strawberries!
Categories: Drinks, Every Day Scoop | Tags: Cocktails anyone?, Every Day with Rachael Ray, get fresh, Lauren Purcell, Purcell Sisters, Rachael Ray, Thirsty Thursday, Watermelon, Watermelon Quencher
Pink cocktails are my guilty pleasure. They simultaneously appeal to my inner girly-girl and taste a-maz-ing, and yet, I rarely order them in public. After bartending many years ago on the opening night of the first Sex and the City movie and making over 200 Cosmopolitans, I don’t think I (or any other bartender for that matter) can look at a pink drink in the same way. That being said, I do make an exception for watermelon cocktails. Juicy sweet and irresistibly fresh, watermelon–in juice or puree form– is like putting summer into a glass. So when there’s a watermelon cocktail on a menu, you better believe I’m gonna order it, but since that can get expensive, here’s a few of my favorite watermelon drinks that you can make at home.
Get the recipes:
This lovely libation from our Editor-in-Chief, Lauren Purcell, and her sister, Anne, will put smiles on everyone’s faces. Use a couple drops of red food coloring to tint the sugar-salt mixture for a colorful cocktail rim.
Two kinds of plums and a half of a watermelon is all you’ll need for this thirst-quenching sip. Use a melon baller to scoop balls out of the watermelon, then plop ‘em into your pitcher. How easy is that?!
From our “Year of Champagne Cocktails” recipe collection, this June-inspired sparkler combines slightly sweet watermelon, botanical-infused gin and savory rosemary to create a crisp, clean and ultra-refreshing concoction.
Mint and lime heighten the cooling and refreshing factors in this 4-ingredient cocktail. Make it by the pitcher for the easiest signature party cocktail ever!
The Vendy Awards are quickly becoming the nation’s most anticipated food awards. The food-truck cooking competitions, hosted by New York City’s Street Vendor Project since 2005, are sold-out street-fare feasts, where cupcake carts, dumpling huts, ramen trucks and kebab stands hand out samples to hungry crowds. Last year, the Vendys took their show on the road, staging local ceremonies across the nation from Los Angeles to Philly and will be adding more cities this year.
As our Editor-in-Chief, Lauren Purcell, gears up to judge this weekend’s 2013 Philadelphia Vendy Awards, we decided to take a look back at last year’s New York City Vendy Awards, where we spent a sunny afternoon filled with mouthwatering mobile meals made on the spot. We feasted on everything from adobo chicken spring rolls to red velvet ice cream sandwiches, and joined attendees in voting on which vendors should be victorious–which was no easy task. At the end of the day though, we walked away with a recipe from each of the five winning vendors–so you can experience the deliciousness at home.
Rookie of the Year Award: Phil’s Steaks
There are the usual Philly-style cheesesteaks, and then there’s Phil’s Steaks’ “whiz wit’ ” (aka with Cheez Whiz and sautéed onions). Head chef Kevin McConnell hungered to start a culinary business, so he and three friends made a pact at a rooftop party to launch second careers. “If you don’t do something that makes you nervous and take a little risk, you’re not going to really succeed.” Proof is in the pudding: Phil’s earned the Vendys’ coveted Rookie of the Year award.
People’s Choice Award: The Cinnamon Snail
Chef Adam Sobel is on a mission to change public opinion about vegan food. Since 2010, he’s owned NYC’s The Cinnamon Snail, the country’s first organic vegan food truck, where he serves the likes of jalapeño-cacao brownies, chile-spiked seitan burgers and fresh fig pancakes. “I wanted to bring really flavorful gourmet vegetarian food to people who wouldn’t normally walk into a vegetarian restaurant,” he says. Impressed? So was the crowd, who honored his truck with the People’s Choice award.
Best Market Vendor Award: Lumpia Shack
Chef Neil Syham’s Brooklyn, NY, weekend stand selling lumpia, or Filipino spring rolls, was “born from a love of Filipino food.” A Manila native and former corporate chef, he sought to update his homeland’s cuisine using seasonal, farm-fresh ingredients. The Best Market Vendor winner adds modern twists, like seafood and vegetable combos, to his perfectly fried wrappers. Syham has become so successful, he’s rolled out a second Brooklyn food stand.
Best Dessert Award: Melt Bakery
Julian Plyter and Kareem Hamady may have had one of the littlest venues at the Vendy’s—a refrigerated pushcart—but they won a big Vendy award: Best Dessert. In 2010, the duo started drawing crowds at a NYC flea market with their scrumptious ice cream sandwiches. Hamady, who cooks up business tactics, convinced Plyter, a former Manhattan pastry chef, to focus on a mobile operation rather than a full-fledged bakery. Now they’ve come full circle, earning enough from carts to open up a shop in Manhattan!
Vendy Cup Award: Piaztlan Mexican
For Eleazar Perez, taking home the Vendy Cup, the event’s top prize, for her succulent steak, goat and roast pork tacos—served with a trio of house-made salsas—was a recognition she never dreamed of, despite her 23-year food-vendor career. The Piaxtla, Mexico, native began by selling tamales from a van in Brooklyn. Now, she and her three children have their own truck and a permit in the Red Hook Ballfields, a favorite foodie destination, where the lines wrap around the block for her fabulous food.
Get the recipe: Red Tomato Salsa
Eleazar Perez’s secret-weapon salsas are a blend of cooked tomatoes–and lots of chiles!
Join the mailing list at streetvendor.org for more information and to nominate your favorite vendors and to stay up to date on future Vendy Cities.
Text by Rachel Wharton; Photography by Melanie Dunea
Categories: Every Day Scoop | Tags: Food Trucks, Lauren Purcell, Lumpia Shack, Melt Bakery, New York, Phil's Steaks, Philadelphia, Piaztlan Mexican, The Cinnamon Snail, Trending, Vendy Awards, Vendys
We told you all about our editor-in-chief, Lauren Purcell’s, kitchen renovation. Now, take a peek at the “before” photos of her 61-square-foot kitchen (it’s in Manhattan, people!). She shared Instagram pics of the space and filled us in on some of her most troublesome elements.
”The best part about my kitchen now is that it faces a big window in my living room.”
”I’d like to hide the recycling and garbage bins, but I don’t want to have to open trash drawers with dirty hands. Do they make doors you open with your feet?”
“The faucet has sprung a tiny leak. (Hey, you can’t have sufficiently awful “Before” photos without some duct tape.)”
“Nice gaps between the counter and appliances, eh? I dread discovering what’s fallen down there!”
“OK, I have no shame: I’m revealing to the world that I’m using a scrunchie to remind me not to pull the bottom of the microwave handle, which has detached. (The scrunchie is meant to go on a wine bottle, not a ponytail. Does that redeem me at all?)”
“A nonfunctioning oven means two things: lots of sautéing and more storage!”