A Great Birthday Present from an Awesome Sister...

My sister is coming down for my birthday this weekend...and making me a cake! Vote at her blog for what kind:



Summery Succotash

How can you not love this?
Not that the picture is a perfect example, but I have learned that succotash is a dish composed of mostly corn and lima beans—and then mixed together with any number of other ingredients. Thanks to some leftover queso fresco from the jalapeno poppers, I decided to try out this Everyday Food recipe from the July/August issue. It's also a great second recipe to keep up your sleeve when you have leftover rottisserie chicken in your fridge.

Chicken Succotash with Avocado
Serves 4

3 large tomatoes, cut into 1" wedges
2 small zucchini, diced medium
2 c. corn kernels (from 3 ears)
2 c. frozen lima beans (from a 10 oz. package), thawed
1/2 rotisserie chicken (skin removed, meat shredded. ~2 cups)
1 avocado, thinly sliced
3 oz. farmers cheese (queso fresco), crumbled (1/2 cup)
6 small red potatoes, quartered into bite-sized chunks
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Season potatoes with salt/pepper and roast for 30 minutes, or until insides are mushy.
  2. Season zucchini with salt/pepper and cook on medium heat until slightly soft (4-5 minutes). Add corn and lima beans and cook until corn is cooked through and lima beans are softened (~3 minutes). Season with salt/pepper, then add in chicken. Cook until meat is warm.
  3. Remove potatoes and add them to the mixture. Divide on to plates, and then add avocado, tomatoes, and farmers cheese.
The freshness of the avocado, cheese, and tomatoes really makes this a great summer dish that is light, yet still satisfying. Feel free to be more adventurous with the ingredients you add to it—the potatoes was my own addition because we had them around. The side starch ended up being fantastic with the rest of the dish, and we just mixed it all together.


Adding Some Heat: Jalapeno Poppers and Stuffed Chicken

Jalapeno poppers have got to me one of my guilty pleasures, right up there with crab rangoon. What can be better than cheese oozing out of a spicy shell? While the fried, freezer options can taste heavy and fattening, this recipe I discovered last week sounded both delicious, and relatively easy.

Be warned: these turned out pretty hot. Our theory is that grilling doesn't remove the chili fire like a fried popper will, so a less heat-intense option is to split them in half—reduce the chili heat-to-cheese ratio.

Anaheim Chili Popper, oven baked

Grilled Jalapeno Poppers
  • 1/2 white onion, thinly diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, diced
  • 8 oz. queso fresco, crumbled
  • 4 oz. Monterrey jack cheese, shredded
  • 2 T. lime juice
  • 1 t. cumin
  • Salt/Pepper to taste
  • 15 jalapeno peppers (or milder peppers like green Anaheim Chilies, if you can't stand the heat)
  1. Saute the white onions in olive oil on a medium-low heat until they start to sweat, around 10 minutes. Add in garlic and cook for an additional 5 minutes until onions are translucent. Let sit to cool.
  2. If you have contacts on, make sure you wear gloves. Chop off the top of the jalapeno, and slice the peppers length-wise almost all the way down—leaving the end together. Remove the veins and seeds with a small spoon. Line up on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
  3.  Mix together your cheeses, lime juice, cumin, and spices, and then add the onion/garlic mixture to it. Stuff the cheese mixture into the poppers.
  4. Fire up the grill, leaving the poppers on the foil and on the top rack that is away from the heat. Close the grill and let cook until the cheese starts to ooze out. At this point, feel free to add your burgers/hotdogs/other items to the grill. Let the poppers continue to cook until the jalapeno skin has charred up and become soft. (We left ours on for another 10 minutes).
  5. For indoor baking: Heat the oven to 350 degrees, place the chilies in for 15 minutes, or until cheese is oozing out. Then, place the oven on a high broil and cook for an additional 2 minutes, or until the skin starts to burst.
If the heat from jalepeno poppers isn't your thing, I would recommend the following Stuffed Chicken recipe that I created from scratch on Day 2, made with the leftover cheese mixture. We served a jalapeno popper with the chicken, but the mild Anaheim was so great mixed with the chicken, I'm going to adjust the recipe below and have you add the pepper to the actual chicken recipe.
I forgot to saute the breast on the stove, and so the meat turned out white
Cheese-Stuffed Chicken Breast
  • 1 chicken breast, butterflied
  • Cheese Mixture from Above
  • 1 Mild Anaheim Pepper
  • Salt/Pepper/Cumin to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Butterfly the chicken breast (leave attached).  Season the inside with salt, pepper, and cumin.
  3. Slice the top of the pepper, and half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and veins. Slice the chili into flat, thin squares.
  4. Stuff your butterflied chicken by layering chili squares first, then a spoonful of cheese, then another layer of chili squares. Fold the top of the chicken breast over the mixture, and secure with toothpicks or string. Season outside with spices.
  5. Heat up a cast iron (or oven safe) skillet with oil, and saute the breasts 1-2 minutes per side to brown the skin. Transfer pan to oven and cook for 15 minutes, or until chicken is done and cheese is oozing out.


Easy Picnic with Dip & Sangria

Here's my second post that appeared on Wolf Trap's Insider Blog:


If you want to follow one rule to picnicking on the lawn, it should be to keep it simple. Don’t try to overdo anything, or stress out about what to bring. Some of the best picnics are the ones where you walk into Whole Foods or Trader Joes without a game plan, and just grab what sounds good. But for those who want more direction, I can start you out with one word: dips.

When it comes to a dip, there are a million options out there, from salsa and chips, pita and hummus, or potato chips and ranch dip. For something a little different, I offer up the following recipe for Pebre.

prep time: 10-20 minutes
Similar to a salsa, without the heat, or bruschetta, without the balsamic, Pebre is one of many recipes that help bring me back to my South American roots. It's traditionally used as a topping for grilled meats, but is fantastic on its own, served with bread or chips for dipping.

• 1/3 c. olive oil
• 2 T. red wine vinegar
• 1 T. lemon juice
• 1 c. parsley, chopped
• 1 c. cilantro, chopped
• ¾ chopped onions
• 1 c. fresh tomatoes, chopped
• 1 T. garlic, diced
• OPTIONAL (if you can find it): 2 fresh aji peppers, or 1-2 T. aji amarillo paste. (The paste is easier to find in the DC area, and can be found at South American food marts)
• Salt and pepper, to taste

The recipe is simple. Mix it all together, and let it marinate. It's actually better on day two or three, so feel free to make this ahead of time.

I made this recipe for last Saturday's Bright Eyes show at Wolf Trap, and served it in a trio of dips that included a cream cheese and pickled zucchini mixture (4 oz. of cream cheese to one large spoonful of pickled veg), and a horseradish cheese dip that my friend Megan found. With a few assorted cheeses and meats, this was quite a feast.

Sangria! Sangria!
I did a little investigating this past week at a certain pavilion in Columbia, Maryland that shall remain nameless, and discovered they had taken down the best beverage sign ever created! But have no fear, Sangria! Sangria! lives on via Wolf Trap's blog.

This is another great recipe that you can make ahead of time. Add whatever fruit works for your taste—but the most important part is to give the concoction a few hours to marinate. This is my mother's tried-and-true recipe, and while its a fantastic red wine recipe--if you prefer rose or white, just adding some strawberry slices can do wonders for a $10 bottle snagged at Arrowine.

• 1 bottle red wine, chilled (Spanish rioja or tempranillo)
• 1/2 orange, in thin slices
• 1/2 lemon, in thin slices
• 4 large oranges, juiced or 1 qt orange juice
• 2 T. sugar
• 4 lemons, juiced
• 24 oz. soda water, chilled

Combine the wine, thin orange and lemon slices, and sugar into pitcher and refrigerate for a few hours, or overnight. When you are ready to serve, add the rest of the fruit juice and soda water.

If you have your own tried-and-true recipes, feel free to add them in the comments section to share with the rest of us.


Packing the Perfect Picnic

I'll be writing a few posts for Wolf Trap's Insider blog, From the Inside Out, and wanted to share with you the first post! Check out the original post here.

Today's blog post comes from Teresa Weaver, one of our staffers who also keeps up a personal recipe blog, Le Culinary Creusette. After four summers picnicking on the lawn, she's seen it all, and we turn to her to get some tips and tricks to having an amazing lawn experience.


I've planned a lot of picnics in my time at Wolf Trap--from rocking out to Belinda Carlisle or Rodrigo y Gabriela with my friends to hearing a thunderstorm keep time with the timpani in Carmina Burana--it's hard to have the same experience twice. Each show brings with it new friends, new bands, and new recipes to try. Over the years I've eyed the best and worst lawn blankets and come up with a solid list of do's and dont's for picnicking on the lawn.

There is a great lineup of shows this week—Frankie ValliThe Levon Helm Band w/ .moeThe Go-Go's, and Bright Eyes w/ M. Ward and Dawe
s—that all have great lawn party potential—so before you head out, read through my list below and make sure you are all stocked up for the summer.

So what should you pack? The beauty of Wolf Trap is that the answer could be nothing and you will still have a fantastic time (although a blanket is h
elpful). I've seen folks show up with a pizza box and Big Gulps, and they are having just as good a time as the enviable picnic spreads that include cheese plates, wine holders, and frittatas. It's all about matching your own mood with the evening show, and planning everything else accordingly.

To make it easy, I've broken it up into two groups—equip
ment and edibles—both of which you should consider before coming out. Today's postfocuses on the equipment—and while I've linked to a few different retailers, remember to shop around for the best price.

• Selecting a Blanket

Make sure you have a waterproof blanket. Even 
if it's sunny outside, if it rained in the past day or two, there's a good chance the ground could still be damp. A lot of folks lug out a tarp and a blanket, but I would try to find one that is waterproof on one side and felt on the other—so you have the added comfort without the hassle of carrying around two separate items.($30 at LL Bean)

Nice spread here. A picnic basket can also double as a table.

• Rolling, Expandable Coolers. ($40 at Bed,
 Bath & Beyond)
I found one at Costco last year that expands out—leaving me room to pack my food, drinks, AND blanket in the same place. It's not a
vailable via Costco anymore unfortunately but check out the Bed, Bath & Beyond link above. Look for ones that have side or front pockets, or detachable bags (for the smaller gathering). These can be pricey—so be sure to shop around and find one that matches your own personalized needs.

• Wine Bottle and Glass Holders you can stick in the ground($10 on Amazon)

Definitely a nice way to class up your picnic spre
ad without spilling the pino.

• Legless Seat Cushions. ($45 at REI)

Remember any seat with legs must move to th
e back of the lawn behind the signs (usually strictly enforced).
• And finally don't forget your outdoor basics: su
nscreenan umbrella orraincoatbug spray, and utensils.
Think he's trying to make a point?

For In-House Patrons: Remember that you might not want to lug around a lot of picnic equipment to your seat. Try to snag a picnic tab
le in the meadow for your meal, and consider Ziploc or paper plates so you don't have that much to store once you're in your seat. If you are extra nice an usher will watch a cooler for you by the wing. Please remember, you are only allowed to bring bottled water to your seat with you

So those are the basics—if there's anything 
you've noticed sitting on the lawn that I forgot to include, please add it below in the comments. Also, next week I tackle the most important part of any picnic: THE FOOD. If you have any tried-and-true recipes that you've used for years on the lawn, shoot me an email and I'll include the best ones in my post. Until then!
Seat cushions are available to rent for the night at our gift shop for $6


Out With the Old...

Goodbye mustard yellow appliances:

Hello Frigidaire!

Dishwasher with hidden buttons!

Fancy ceramic stove top

Nice how magnets make even the newest appliance seem old...

stackable shelves!

The best part was that Chris and I installed the oven vent ourselves. Booya.

Best new appliance stories so far:
  • The first time we ran the dishwasher, we thought it was broken because we couldn't hear the water running. I literally had my ear to the door and couldn't hear it. :)
  • We were able to adjust the fridge door shelves to keep our Growler of Star Hill beer in the side
  • I just tried out our quick bake feature—which is like a convection—and the pizza turned out AMAZING. The outside was crispy, the inside was gooey, and the cheese was melted.