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The Nine Condiments Rocking My World

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As I continue to build a well-rounded kitchen in my first real-life-adult apartment, I’ve realized one of the most important departments to stock up on is condiments and sauces. I have gotten away for a while with the essentials like EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), hot sauce and salsa, but now understand how much complexity and flavor a few dashes of other speciality sauces adds to a meal. While I could’ve taken out my entire refrigerator and included other classics like mayo, mustard and ketchup, I narrowed down the list to a nine bottled items that are rocking my world lately.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Price varies with quality and size. I usually purchase a large bottle like this for around $8.00. If you’re going to have one thing in your kitchen, let it be EVOO. This is my ultimate go-to for cooking. Whether you’re using it to sear some meat in a pan, coating veggies in it before you roast them, or dressing a salad, EVOO is the most practical and diverse item you could purchase.

EVOO

Balsamic Vinegar. Typically around: $5.00. You can buy balsamic vinegar in a range of styles and levels of fanciness, but a classic balsamic vinegar (not a glaze) will do the trick. I drizzle this over fresh tomatoes in the summer with a little salt and pepper, use it with EVOO as a salad dressing, or toss it into a marinade for meats.

balsamic

Red Wine Vinegar. Less than $4.00. This vinegar, unlike balsamic, has a little bit less of a dominant flavor and is even more so multi-functional. Once you have it, you will realize how many recipes call for it: salad dressings, Asian dishes, marinades and more. You could also try apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar.

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Hot Sauce. Typically less than $3.00. The great debate is about which hot sauce is your favorite. I went through a Tapatio phase, then a Chulula phase and now I’m all about Valentina. I had it in Cabo this summer and thought it was only a speciality of Mexico. I was elated when I found it on the shelves of the ethnic food isle at my local grocery store. It has more of a citrus-meets-chili flavor that’s not actually spicy in my opinion. Looking for something to wow your friends: try this on produce like cucumbers or pineapple. That’s how it’s used authentically.

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Salsa. Less than $4.00. Salsa is one of those things that you can have in your fridge without thinking about or using for weeks, but then the minute you don’t have it, you wish you did. Buy your favorite kind and try different flavors (chunky, smooth, mild, spicy, black bean, corn, fire roasted, etc.) There are a million and one varieties. I love having salsa on hand for breakfast-for-dinner burritos, dressing for taco salads or impromptu nachos with friends.

salsa

Sriracha. Around $3.00. This sauce became the trendy-all-the rage condiment, but it truly is a kitchen staple. The chili sauce known for the rooster on the front and that bright green lid can be used across the board from Asian dishes to American burgers. Spice up your stir fry sauce with a tablespoon of this, mix it with mayo for a spread on your cheeseburger or a dipping sauce for your french fries. You’d be surprised by the creative things people do with this sauce.

sriracha

Toasted Sesame Oil: Less than $5.00. I bought toasted sesame oil for the first time this month. I finally caved after trying to go without it in Asian dishes for years. It’s incredible how just a few drops of this (it’s potent) will transform your dish. Use it in sauces for stir fry, noodle dishes, soups or even over roasted vegetables. An investment in a bottle will last you a while.

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Soy Sauce. Around $3.00. You can put soy sauce on literally anything to transform the flavor. I buy the kind with less sodium so I don’t feel like I have to 12 glasses of water the rest of the day. I love drizzling soy sauce over a quick stir fry, over steamed veggies or using it when marinating meat.

soysauce

Frank’s Red Hot Sauce. Less than $3.00. This an optional item for rotation and could be swapped for barbecue sauce if you prefer, but I like having one of the two on hand for special occasions. I am all about Buffalo Chicken Dip at summer cook outs right now (everything in moderation), but also like adding this to a chicken salad with mayo or Greek yogurt for a twist. If you’re opting for some barbecue sauce, use that for similar purposes: dips, on burgers or marinating meats.

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I would love to know – what are the sauces and condiments you can’t live without in your pantry? Did I miss any that you use all the time? I hope this inspires you to pick up a few new bottles at the grocery store this week. You can get all nine of these condiments for just about $40.00. Initially it’s a pretty big investment, but having these on hand will ensure a great start to a well-rounded kitchen. If you don’t purchase them all at once, collect them over time as needed and it will challenge you to try new recipes along the way.

Love food. Love self. Love life.
Gabriela

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Playing with Food

Food inspired styled shoot with In n Out, donuts and ice cream with Audree from Simply Audree Kate in Tempe and Scottsdale, Arizona.

My two friends, Ali and Audree, had the most adorable food-inspired fashion shoot for Audree’s blog called Simply Audree Kate. You’ll recognize her from previous posts since we love to collaborate, but I couldn’t help myself from reposting these pictures because they are just SO. DANG. CUTE.

All of these pictures capture what I love about summer. Fun outfits, bright colors, lots of laughter, best friends and sweet (or savory) treats. All of these foods – ice cream cones, burgers and fries, and donuts – bring back some of my favorite memories with summer. Ice cream makes me think of my summers at the lake in Minnesota when all the little cousins and I would pack into the biggest car we could find and drive to the ice cream shop for cones. Half the time, none of them would even finish the ice cream and would pass it off to a parent. Envisioning the little ones with bright green mint chocolate chip all over their faces just makes me smile!

Food inspired styled shoot with In n Out, donuts and ice cream with Audree from Simply Audree Kate in Tempe and Scottsdale, Arizona.Food Inspired with Simply Audree Cake

In-N-Out will always make me think about senior year of college when I lived directly across the street from the infamous burger place. The red and yellow neon lights glowed through the window of my bedroom every night. How did I manage to not gain 20 pounds? On Saturday afternoons once pool season began, my friends and I would walk across the street, eat our burger meals and then nap off our food coma under the sun. I never looked this cute going into get burgers, but then again, nobody ever looked as cute as Audree.

Food inspired styled shoot with In n Out, donuts and ice cream with Audree from Simply Audree Kate in Tempe and Scottsdale, Arizona.

Food inspired styled shoot with In n Out, donuts and ice cream with Audree from Simply Audree Kate in Tempe and Scottsdale, Arizona.

Food inspired styled shoot with In n Out, donuts and ice cream with Audree from Simply Audree Kate in Tempe and Scottsdale, Arizona.

One of my best friends, Nikki, is absolutely obsessed with donuts. She thinks that donuts are always a good idea. Whenever I see anything with donuts on it, I think of her. I remember when we lived together, I would frequently wake up in the morning to find a pink box on the counter. Without hesitation I knew that Nikki had gotten late night donuts. Whether you’re a sprinkles person or all about the jelly filling, grab a donut and some iced coffee and indulge yourself this summer.

Food inspired styled shoot with In n Out, donuts and ice cream with Audree from Simply Audree Kate in Tempe and Scottsdale, Arizona.

Food inspired styled shoot with In n Out, donuts and ice cream with Audree from Simply Audree Kate in Tempe and Scottsdale, Arizona.

Food inspired styled shoot with In n Out, donuts and ice cream with Audree from Simply Audree Kate in Tempe and Scottsdale, Arizona.

I don’t know about you but all I want right now is a donut for breakfast, burger and fries for lunch, and ice cream for dinner. These classic foods bring back such happy memories of summer. Ice cream may be melting out of your hand and ketchup may be all over your face post-burger bite. Sprinkles may be all over your lap, but nobody cares because it tastes so good. I hope these pictures inspired you to have a little more fun with your food and even wear it as cute as Ali and Audree did.

Photography by Brooke Marcella Photography in Phoenix, Arizona. Styling by Audree Lopez.

Love food. Love self. Love life.
Gabriela

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Gourmet Gab in Denver, Colorado

One of my favorite things about my job is my ability to travel. I had the opportunity to visit Denver, Colorado for a weekend of meetings, but was lucky enough to experience some delicious eats in between. The weather was crisp and chilly, the city was clean, and the food was great. First off – let’s start with the hotel. We stayed at this place called the Curtis Hotel where every floor has a different retro theme. The hotel even kept the infamous 13th floor and it is horror movie themed! Our floor was all about Elvis, and we were greeted by Elvis hits every time the elevator approached our level.

On the bottom floor of the Curtis Hotel is a restaurant called The Corner Office. The restaurant continues with the retro theme and has just as much personality. Playing off their theme, The Corner Office’s menu is shaped like a filing folder for dinner and a music record for brunch. We dined there twice and I left full and happy both times. The top right picture in the collage is of the “Soul Train Benny” with crab cakes and cilantro hollandaise I devoured for brunch. You must also try their “Disco Biscuits” with house made tomatillo jam. If you’re boozing, check out their bottomless “Dy-No-Mite Bloody Mary Bar.” It was epic. Below that picture is the cocktail I ordered at dinner. The “French Connection” is truly one of the best drinks I’ve ever had: Grey Goose, St. Germain and Prosecco. For dinner I ordered something completely random — the Tikka Masala as recommended by the waitress. It was phenomenal and not at all what I would’ve expected from a retro restaurant in Denver.

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Other dining adventures included breakfast at the well-known establishment Sam’s No. 3. I indulged myself in the Mexican Breakfast with eggs, chorizo and pork green chili. Those potatoes were just as good as they look. We also couldn’t have ventured to Colorado without trying some of the local brews. Union Station in Denver right by Coors Field in downtown has all these different restaurants to try out for a variety of food. We grabbed a quick bite there with a Colorado brew and loved people watching. My other favorite spot was called Tamayo, which is described as modern Mexican. Their watermelon margarita was exactly what I needed for an afternoon refreshment – and just look at that color! Along with chips, salsa and guacamole (essential), I ordered a few of their street tacos and a squash blossom quesadilla. The quesadilla was also street taco-sized but packed with so much flavor! I want to replicate this at home.

Although I didn’t get to do any more sight seeing or adventures in the city, the restaurants I got to taste set the bar high for my next trip to Denver. It’s been years since I’ve been skiing, so maybe next time I’ll venture to Colorado for a winter ski trip instead of a work trip. What are your favorite spots in Denver I should add to my list?

Love food. Love self. Love life.
Gabriela

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Saturday Farmer’s Market

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Indiana is surprising me more and more every week. I’m finding gems that are making me swoon for the mid-west. Last weekend, my friends and I went to the Carmel Farmer’s Market. The town is about north of Indianapolis and more of the suburbs. Not only is the name adorable – I mean come on, it’s named after candy! – but it’s so quaint. The downtown area has boutiques and public art. The residents are the cutest young families. The houses have gardens and are painted pastel colors.

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This farmer’s market is behind the Palladium, this stunning building that houses the Center for the Performing Arts. Green grass, blue skies and warm sunshine painted the perfect scene for us while we walked around scoping the produce, drinking iced coffee and eating donuts. My hands were full and my stomach was happy. What more can I ask for?

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I’m searching for just the right way to use the sweet corn, zucchini, squash and onion I bought. I want to preserve the natural flavor of the produce because it’s so dang fresh. And with most meals in the summer, I’m hoping to spend as little time in the kitchen so I can savor the beautiful weather. If I can make my way down to our community grill, I may grill up the corn with some turkey burgers this week. The zucchini, squash and onions may get tossed in the oven for roasting so I can drink a glass of wine on the patio while I wait.

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I think this farmer’s market is going to have to become a weekend tradition for the next few weeks of summer. Next time I think I’ll snag some heirloom tomatoes for a caprese salad and some cherries to eat by the pool. What are your favorite farmer’s market finds?

Love food. Love self. Love life.
Gabriela

 

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Bellinis in Bed

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It’s easy to get into the habit of saving your favorite bottle of wine or most delicious dessert for a special occasion. Or only wearing that amazing dress for fancy dinner parties. Lately I’ve been in the mood to celebrate the simple things in life and opening a bottle of Prosecco is my favorite way to do so. There’s something about the bubbles and the glasses that make the taste extra special. I was talking about Prosecco with Wilson, my go-to wine expert over at the grocery store, the other day and he brought up the topic of Bellinis. He said the employees at the store did a blind taste test of Bellinis versus mimosas and almost all the employees chose the Bellini. I was so surprised! I had never been a particular fan, but was determined to give them a try.

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You can this drink the same way as a mimosa. In the case of bellinis, though, you swap Champagne for Prosecco and orange juice for peach juice. To be traditional, you can make the peach juice fresh on your own by pureeing and straining the peach. You would spoon the puree in the bottom and top off the glass with Prosecco. I went the easier route and elected to buy peach juice from the store and it still tasted so fresh.

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You’ll want to pick a good Prosecco or sparkling wine for the base, but nothing crazy fancy since you’re adding the flavor of the peach. Wondering what the difference is between Champagne and Prosecco? I learned about the different flavor profiles with this infographic. For this drink: we’re sticking to Prosecco or sparkling wine. When I’m entertaining, I grab a few different bottles so we can taste test and find the best combination. This Secco bottle from Trader Joe’s was okay, but I actually preferred the RSVP Sparkling Brut for the same price. (Only $6!)

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I like to live by the “splash” philosophy, meaning of 3/4 Prosecco and 1/4 (a splash of) peach juice. I don’t like it my drinks too sweet and want to be able to taste the sparkling wine. Play with it to find your ratio. You’ll be able to tell how people prefer theirs by the color of the drinks. Fainter orange is more Prosecco and deeper orange is more of a balance. Just like mimosas, there is no right or wrong way in my book! For entertaining, I like to put the peach juice in a carafe or glass bottle rather than just pulling out the carton. It makes the assembly feel more elegant.

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Whether you’re having a weekend breakfast or just relaxing in bed, a Bellini would be the perfect way to celebrate the little things. Toss in some colorful straws, stir up your drink and enjoy. I think you may find yourself a new favorite thing to take a break from mimosas. As the Italians say, “Salute!”

gourmetgab_bellinis

Love food. Love self. Love life.
Gabriela