Friday, July 20, 2012

Pomegranate Sparkle & Chalkboard China

Salud! Cheers! Salut! Today here at the Cooking with Books kitchen we're celebrating! What are we celebrating? Nothing in particular, and everything all at once! I want to thank each and everyone of you that take time and read my blog. Thank YOU! I'm grateful to have you as readers, and even more so, as friends!

Celebrations don't need more than a grateful reason, and what's even better is being able to create unique drinks and serving them in special glassware to enjoy with your loved ones! When I received a set of flutes from Chalkboard China, I quickly wanted to create a new drink that was tart as well as sweet, and who doesn't love bubbly? Mixed in with Pomegranate Syrup from Skylake Ranch (which I will tell you more about in a future post, but definitely check them out!), this drink has now become a staple in our home!

Designed by Candace Jean and made in the United States, Chalkboard China is a collection of glassware, centerpieces, place settings, and more. The concept behind it is in line with the designer's Southern hospitality, personalizing everyday utensils and making guests feel even more welcomed. They all have a special chalkboard section which you can doodle, inscribe a name, or write well wishes! As you can see, being a newlywed I love seeing our names as Mr. & Mrs. Murray, so that is what I played around with.

The flutes are crafted with smooth crystal, the stems thin and withholding. The chalkboard area wipes clean with a wet cloth and leaves behind no trace of the previous chalk drawings and writings. Their collections also include Martini and Margarita glasses, as well as Carafes and more! Hand washing is preferable for longer durability. I'd definitely recommend these to anyone that regularly hosts parties and dinners, and it's the perfect gift idea for a housewarming, newlyweds, etc. Visit Chalkboard China on Facebook or follow them on Twitter for updates. Cheers!

Pomegranate Sparkle
Enough Celebration for 2-4

1 bottle of your favorite sparkling, either Champagne, Prosecco, or Cava
1 cup frozen green, seedless grapes

  1. The day before: wash and dry green grapes. Place in one layer in freezer and freeze overnight. These will allow your drink to stay cool for longer. 
  2. To serve: pour one tablespoon of Pomegranate Syrup in each flute. Top with sparkling of choice and float a few frozen grapes! Cheers!

Disclaimer: Chalkboard China provided Cooking with Books with items free of charge to make this review possible.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tuna Pasta Salad

One of my favorite dishes to make for lunch when I am not in the mood for a lot of cooking is pasta salad. I've become obsessed with making Tonnato sauce, a tuna based Italian sauce regularly served over veal, but great tossed in pasta salad and one of the stars in this dish.

And honestly, pasta salad does NOT have to be boring. It can be a world of textures and contrast of flavors, satisfying and delicious! The use of different dressings make this salad a simple meal that can be made with whatever you have in your fridge and pantry. Lately, I've been using Eden Foods Ume Plum Vinegar, which I received a complimentary bottle of, alongside some of their oils.

What's Ume Plum Vinegar? It's flavor. It's balance. It's bright! It's what every pasta salad needs in order to stand out from the usual suspects. Here's what Eden Foods has to say about it:
Treasured by-product from traditional pickling of EDEN Umeboshi Plums with sea salt and shiso (beefsteak) leaf. Ruby red, tangy, very salty. Sprinkle over cooked or steamed vegetables, add to salad dressings and dips, and use for pickling.
Added to this pasta salad, it makes the raw vegetables stand out, slightly pickling them as the salad settles and the flavors mingle. Bacon adds that needed salty element and tuna pulls it all together. The Ume Plum Vinegar has brighten up my cooking, were I've also tried my hand in quick pickling some radishes with it. The radishes pickle nicely when sliced thinly and turned a lovely pink color, thanks to the Ume Plum Vinegar.

Tuna Pasta Salad
Serves 4

1/2 pound dry pasta, cooked 
4 strips of bacon, diced
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
2 teaspoons Sriracha
1 can canned tuna
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 stalk celery, diced
1/4 of a small red cabbage, thinly sliced

  1. Reserve cooked pasta to the side and in a hot saute pan, cook bacon until crisp. Save bacon fat. 
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, olive oil, vinegar, Sriracha and mustard. Incorporate tuna, red bell pepper, celery, and red cabbage. 
  3. Drizzle in bacon fat and bacon pieces. 
  4. Toss together with pasta and adjust seasoning by adding salt and pepper. 
Share the Pasta Salad love! What ingredients would you toss in your pasta salad?