Mini vacations to @SeaCrestCapeCod and all the mixology at the annual @faithwnpr Martini Competition!

Summer is in full swing – well not today – today it’s cool, cloudy, and spitting little rain drops (thanks New England).  But in general, the apex of the warm weather is upon us!  Today’s post recaps my recent trip with Carolyn to one of her family’s favorite seaside resorts – now one of my favorites too – as well as one of the best mixology events of the year – the annual Faith Middleton Food Schmooze Martini Competition. But first – a preview of fun things to come:

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I met this lovely lady – Caitlin – and her penguin friend – at the Travelers Championship mini-golf tourney for charity.  She and I will be connecting this summer to bring Penelope to the Mystic Aquarium for a behind the scenes tour of the fishies.  Very exciting.

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Penelope and I also enjoyed a lovely Farm to Table brunch over the weekend Clark Hill Farms in Granby!  We will be returning shortly to pick blueberries, and I’ll be recapping our experience – along with the the upcoming Scales, Shells & Steak dinner by renowned Chef Billy Grant at Rose’s Berry Farm on July 17th!  Tickets are available here.  

‘Tis truly the season to eat local.

‘Tis also the season to take mini trips to the Cape!  The beauty of Connecticut is that it’s really, really tiny – and easy to drive from one state to the other.  Carolyn and I took off for the Sea Crest Beach Hotel on a whim several weeks ago, when we realized that our only chances for a girls’ vacation lay in taking our trip ASAP, before the summer became any busier:

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Yes, we changed into vintage swimsuits just for cocktail hour.  We’re ridiculous like that.

The Sea Crest is not your typical Cape Cod resort, and that’s a good thing.  For starters, it’s not embedded in rustic woods – just straight up waterfront, powdery white sands, and of course, the glassy smooth perfection of Cape Cod oceanfront.  In addition, it’s located on an inlet, which means that you can watch the sunset over the water – a rare treat on the East coast. They also feature onsite dining:

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Sometimes I’ll order something other than raw oysters.  But – actually, no that never happens

As well as beach side drinks service:

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Drinks on the deck!

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Drinks to go with your dino mag!

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Drinks for everyone!  No movement required!  Side note: both of my swim suits are from Venom Vintage

I’m looking forward to returning to the Sea Crest this fall for my first ever half marathon – The Zooma Cape Cod -which I agreed to in a moment of manhattan infused madness at the Glastonbury Strawberry Moon Festival with Caitlin!  My training is under way – very slowly this week as I’m recovering from illness, but slowly but surely picking up.  At least the gorgeous ocean front setting is a good motivation to stick with it!

So, off the beach and on to the cocktail competition!  As aforementioned, the Faith Middleton Food Schmooze Martini Competition is one of my very favorite events of the year.  Faith’s cooking show  on WNPR is a must listen whilst zipping around the city on weekday afternoons – she combines thoughtful repartee on all things food related (often joined by the talented and funny Chris Prosperi) as well as a variety of eclectic topics.  But, if food is King of the Food Schmooze show, the martini is Queen – and the annual martini competition showcases some of the finest mixology from around the state:

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Let’s start with my personal favorite libation, from personal favorite mixologist David Brogan, aka @signaturedavid.  He combined Wild Moon Chai Spice Liqueur, Blanco Tequila, RIPE Agave Margarita Bar Mix, Strawberry rhubarb simple syrup and Cointreau for his “Summer Spice” cocktail.  It was a perfect balance of bitter, spicy, and saucy – truly refreshing and definitely worth recreating at home!

Other notable favorites included:

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“Sunshine and London” courtesy of On20 – a very berry blend of Strawberry Shrub, gin, watermelon, and basil.  Side note: shrubs are ridiculously easy to make at home and a great way to use up local, seasonal fruit.  

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I’m subbing the picture of the Plan B cocktail with this ridiculously cute image from their Marketing Manager, Rachel’s Instagram account – but they made a “Cherry Picker” Bench Mark Bourbon infused with cherries – naturally – egg white foam, and vinegar.  Like the shrub in On20, the vinegar adds a nice sour touch to what could otherwise be an overly sweet libation.  That’s how you know you’re dealing with cocktail experts

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Never failing to please, Max Burger‘s cocktail, the “BRB” was a summery mix of: agave nectar, fresh basil, muddled raspberries, sour mix, bourbon, and black walnut bitters

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A “Luscious Garden” courtesy of the Half Door:  Jameson, sage, and blackberry infused syrup, lemon juice, and bitters

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“Cucumber Honeyrita-tini” courtesy of Flipside: Cucumber, triple sec, tequila, honey, and lime juice

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A very beachy libation from the Doubletree by Hilton in Bristol, the “Slim Shady:” Grapefruit vodka, white lemon juice, grapefruit bitters, and St Germain

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My favorite presentation of the evening: a smoked blueberry infused moonshine with honey bacon spiced rim courtesy of Bear’s Smokehouse.  They currently only serve beer and wine, but if this is what we have to look forward to for future cocktails, well dang.  Just another reason to go there…. often

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A spicy cocktail and cookie combo from Firebox, the “High Cooler:” St George Green Chile Vodka, fresh pressed watermelon juice, lime juice, and lime zest, with a pistachio chipotle meringue

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Diner style presentation and flair (naturally) from Blue Plate Kitchen, who presented the “Honey Green Tea-ni:” Rime organic vodka, infused meyer lemon simple syrup, and green tea

Many, many thanks to WNPR for hooking myself and a guest up with two passes to this awesome event:

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Pictured here hand modeling a very yummy shrimp and frozen gazpacho amuse bouche from Tisane (who also killed the cocktail game with their Hendricks Gin (yum), yellow watermelon juice, cucumber, lime, and ginger simple syrup cocktail

One of the notable pitfalls with this type of an evening is that it’s virtually impossible (for me, at least) to sample everything.  So although I did vote for my favorite:

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And received my sticker, thank you very much

I ultimately did NOT try the winner cocktail (shucks) – but congrats to Infinity Hall and Bistro for their “Lime in the Coconut” cocktail which took first place!  And kudos to the DoubleTree and Max Burger for their respective second and their place wins.  I have so much inspiration for summer cocktails now – starting with making a local blueberry shrub, once Penelope and I go blueberry picking next week.

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#SingerIslandScenes and Family Bonding in Florida

Wow.  It’s been a roller coaster couple of weeks.  First – a blissful week of relaxing, lovely vacation in Florida with my closest family and friends.  Then – home to the frozen north and a massive, cigar induced upper respiratory infection (more on the cigar to follow).  Play hard and pay for it?  Perhaps.  Worth it?  Oh very definitely.

heaven

Scene from outside of my Dad’s Singer Island condo. Singer Island is a lovely little strip of land close to Palm Beach Gardens, with a big state park right on the ocean and miles of wild and healthy beaches.  It’s pretty great.

It’s funny how after four years in Connecticut – Florida still feels like home.  Maybe it’s because my closest family (aka my parents and siblings) all live and/or congregate there for the holidays.  Maybe it’s because, well, Palm Beach Gardens is just awesome.  Endless warm weather, white sandy beaches, amazing foodie scene, and the best shopping center in the entire world: The Gardens Mall

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Lilly Pulitzer from the signature Gardens store and a Bellini at Brio.  Basically perfection.

Not to mention the world’s best supermarket:

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Publix – home to $40 Veuve Cliquot sales and Caitlin’s favorite cake

Oh yeah – Cait was in Florida too – in Palm Beach Gardens – where she is ever year for Christmas.  It’s amazing we met in Connecticut and not previously in Florida, all things considered.  Anyway, it makes the holidays that much better, and it’s always lovely to see Cait’s little sister Hannah too!

downtown at the gardens

Photo credit to Caitlin in this picture, which is why she’s not pictured.  I love 1/ the Florida Christmas trees and 2/ that I casually match the tree.  Also – @SingerIslandScenes Instagram reblogged this – I recommend following them to anyone who loves beautiful Floridian wildlife, as there’s plenty of that on their page.

This particular picture was taken during one of several excursions to Downtown at the Gardens.  I relived my college days with happy hour at Ra and the completely amazing crunchy spicy tuna roll:

spicy tuna roll

Whoa.  So good. 

We also ventured to a really cool cigar bar – Angry Moon Cigars

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Pros: excellent Instagram.  Cons: wicked bad chest infection which probably had something to do with cigar.  Oh well.  I’ll probably still try another at some point, as it was really good

And a huge trip highlight – a trip to The Cooper

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Dave doing his most excellent mixology thing

Yes – the Max Restaurant Group has a location in Palm Beach Gardens now, so naturally we’re obsessed with it.  It was lovely to drink a sophisticated take on rum punch in the December:

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The Walking Dead: House rum blend, velvet falernum, don’s mix, grenadine, angostura, absinthe

As well as a most excellent cheese plate:

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That’s my little sis in my crop top and my awesome cousin Geo in my vintage Lilly Pulitzer shirt.  I love it

And a small tuna plate:

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ALL MINE

One of my very best friends from college, Jenn, stopped by for drinks after dinner too, the same night!  So much fun catching up

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Love her

So yes – tons and tons of fun time with friends.  But of course – the time with Penelope was the most special and important of all!  And she had a blast – on the beach:

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Making her beautiful sand castle

Hanging with her Papi:

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Yep!  That’s my Daddy

Chilling with Mommy:

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Baby fedora, we brought congri, and then P took a nap on the beach.  Super Cuban.

Baking ninja gingerbread:

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Excellent ninjas or spastic gingerbread men or whatever.

Attending church on Christmas Eve at Christ Fellowship:

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There was a step and repeat (really – it’s the South) but unfortunately we were too distracted to get a picture (also I knew Helen would mock me for asking)

P also enjoyed playing her new American Girl dolly, courtesy of her Daddy’s parents… I mean Santa Claus:

p and beautiful dolly

Such a beautiful dolly.  I’m already plotting our trip to NYC for tea with the dolly.  Obviously more for me than for P at this point, but I think she will enjoy it also

with her cousins Christmas day:

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Awwwww.  P and Logan!

Oh – also Christmas day?  This happened.  It’s a full on Cuban Christmas lunch:

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You know, the traditional stuff.  Tostones, black beans, yucca with mojo, brussel spouts, mac and cheese, glazed carrots, sous vide lamb, and sous vide pork. 

P and I wore matching Mommy and me Lilly Pulitzer from Silkworm in West Hartford:

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My precious baby!

So basically yes, not a traditional white Christmas with stockings by the fire and a roast turkey (or …something?  I think some people do these things, haha).  But a perfect Christmas for us in every way.  Can’t wait to go back soon – I hope everyone else was blessed with lovely family and friends and great family traditions also!

Our 4th wedding anniversary @Atlantisresort

Happy 4th anniversary to my husband, Michael.  On October 21st, 2010, we carved our names into a tree outside of a courthouse in Vegas:

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Perfect for the type B bride who elopes and easily forgets dates!

Ascended the Stratosphere

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So high in the air

And said “I do:”

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The dress is BCBG and I bought it online without trying it on.  It fit perfectly.  I get lucky sometimes (in love too!  I mean, obviously)

It’s more traditional to do something ‘big’ for five years, but then again, we’re not really traditional people.  So we decided to head off, without little Penelope, to Atlantis Resort a couple weeks ago to commemorate our wedding in a big way.

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Thanks for the free balcony upgrade, Atlantis!  And the amazing trip

As the view above demonstrates better than a thousand words, Paradise Island (Freeport, Bahamas) is an absolutely idyllic locale.  The island vibe is happy, serene, and as relaxing as listening to the palm trees on the beach.  We enjoyed every minute of our four day, three night stay, although I think that we both agreed that the family friendly nature of the resort meant that the next trip back would definitely be with Penelope present.  There are large, clean, kid friendly pools…

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Whoa.  Yeah.

…awesome water slides (terrific) super aquariums (sharks! wow), and a really cool looking kids’ club.  So yeah, there was some natural parental guilt when I pictured how much P would have enjoyed the pools, being the little water baby that she is:
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Seen here enjoying a pool with Daddy on Sanibel Island last Christmas in Florida.  Man, that kid was bald back in the day

But – sometimes it’s really nice to have one on one time with someone you love.  And if that one on one time happens in paradise?  Well, heck, might as well roll with it.  So I relaxed, and we thoroughly enjoyed our vacation.

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From the beach/grottos (that’s me, manatee style)

To the casino:

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Note Mike’s yard long daiquiri please.  The man loves his daiquiris

To our off resort field trip to Senor Frogs:

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Our first trip to Senor Frogs in 2009

four years later

And in 2014!  I think Mike wore those same board shorts in 2009.  Might be time for a new pair 😉

In addition to the pool, beach, casino, and bar excursions, I went on a food quest: to eat conch in every form I could find it.  I had reasonable success but I believe I could have done better and will try to raise the bar next trip:
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Conch chowder at Johnny Rockets?  Love it

preparing the conch salad

Conch crudo prepared fresh on the sea (literally, in a boat) ceviche style with lime and tomato

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Stewed conch in gravy for breakfast (pictured right on that very full brunch plate)

awesome grouper

Ok, this is a picture of grouper.  But there were conch fritters at the meal.  We just ate them all before I could take a picture – it happens – and the grouper was very, very good

In addition to the Conch Quest, I crossed an item off my foodie bucket list and went to Nobu for the first time.  Michael and i both loved it, and my favorite items were the lychee martini with elderflower and the salmon wrapped in pear, which is a flavor combination I still fantasize about:

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Really masterful pairing, both in flavors and texture

In addition to the pools, the beaches, the really cool water slides, and all the aforementioned eating, there was a nice little cluster of shops on the resort.  I believe in duty free whenever possible, and I was very happy to score a travel perfume for myself:

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yaaaas

And a Barbie perfume set for P:

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Which she absolutely loves because of course she does

And, of course, I wore as much Lilly Pulitzer as possible in a four day period:

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Dress from Silkworm!

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Also from Silkworm.  Come to think of it – most of my Lilly is from Silkworm.  Thanks for being a northern outpost for this awesome southern brand, Erica!

We stayed at the Royal Towers at the resort, which is the mid price range option, and very centrally located, which is nice, because as you can probably imagine, the resort itself is friggin’ enormous:

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And also, really gorgeous

When we return, I think it will be to the Royal Towers.  And it most likely is a question of if, not when, as the entire vacation was really lovely from start to finish, and all the family friendly elements of Atlantis will make it a great destination to return with P in the years to come.  So goodbye for now Atlantis:

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And goodbye rum cake, which definitely did not survive the plane ride home.  Because I ate it.

Until, we hope, very soon!  And thanks to all the lovely people we met on the island who helped us to celebrate our four year anniversary in such a wonderful way.  And to my husband, if you overcome your hatred of social media long enough to read this – I love you very much, and happy anniversary.

The Cooper, the Keys, and the Baby Mermaid

Before we dive into my vacation recap, let me invite all of you to visit my new blog project for Share Our Strength: Taste of the NationLeeanne and I recently attended a fundraiser dinner at Millwrights for the charity, and my write up is here.

Gah.  It’s already been a week since our trip to Florida.  Good thing we have another one coming up at Christmas – I love autumn, but the shorter, cooler days have snuck up way too fast this year.  Not to mention – every time we go back to Palm Beach Gardens, I seem to find more to love about our former home.  And now that The Cooper has joined the vibrant PBG restaurant scene – there’s even more to love!

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This was my brother, Lucas’ reaction to the Cooper chorizo and manchego stuffed medjool dates.  Seems an appropriate lead in.  Also, please note the excellent math pun on his t shirt (it’s a runner thinking about pi)

My BFF and compadre in arms always, aka my sister Helen, and I managed to go to the Cooper twice in the week I was in Florida (she’s since been back by herself, because of course she has).

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Photo from our first night

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Cheesy, happy menu shot

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Cheese plate the second – we ordered cheese plates both trips.  This one featured, from left to right: Manchego, Hudson Valley Camembert, and Moliterno al Tartufo.

The first time we visited, we had to leave early to get back to baby Penelope – so we packaged up our food to go, including this excellent salad:

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Grilled Peaches & Point Reyes Blue Cheese

This tangy gazpacho:

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Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Gazpacho

And, of course, the aforementioned dates.  We DID have time to sip and savor a couple cocktails however:

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“Bees Knees” martini: Citadel Gin, honey syrup, lemon juice

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Name Dropper “Modified Sour:” Plymouth Gin, St Germain, grapefruit and lemon juices

Our second visit also marked a happy, lively meeting with head bartender and CT native (as if the beard wasn’t a dead give away! ha!) David Bouchard

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He really likes chartreuse.  Don’t question it.  The man is a master

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Seen here deep in his craft and also immersed in snarkology.  It’s always nice to meet a fellow snarkologist.

The shot above pictures David mixing our agreed upon favorite cocktail:

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Cucumber Southside “Classic Sour:” Hendrick’s Gin, simple syrup, citrus, muddled mint, cucumber

The cocktails at The Cooper are quite up to par with the other Max locations in CT – thanks to David’s creativity and a menu which is influenced by a Southern/Carribean vibe – much like the food menu – adding a unique, tangy Floridian twist to the Max flavors we know and love.  Quite nice!  Can’t wait to go back in December with Caitlin and Hannah.

There was more fun and delicious dining in the form of a brand new dining experience – Rosie’s Bar and Grill in Wilton Manors!  I was suitably excited upon being informed that: 1) this is a gay diner 2) valet parking only.  Seemed like an excellent start.  Plus, my good friend from college, Jana, does NOT recommend bad dining destinations.  Ever.

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Meeting Baby P for the first time!  With a nice photobomb from Julie and her boyfriend, Rob.

Rosie’s boasted many, many strong points: sassy tags on each of the servers’ shirt (our servers read: “there’s a fine line between hotness and hot mess) cool “see and be scene” crowd (that’s their tag line by the way at Rosies’ – it’s definitely a ‘Florida thing’), and enormous, delicious portions

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No I did not eat this (enormous banana stuffed french toast)

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But yes! I did eat this, and it was so very good (asparagus eggs benedict on a delectable home made biscuit)

The trip to Rosie’s worked out perfectly as it was on the way to one of my Dad’s favorite vacation spots in Key Largo – Ocean Pointe Suites.  This glorious timeshare boasts a location with is much more central than Key West which – although fun – is also a good three hours further by car (possibly farther depending on traffic).  It also has a lovely pool whose only flaw is a radio which is constantly tuned to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville channel (shudders), a nice little beach grotto, onsite bar, marina, tennis courts, and apartments complete with kitchenettes.

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Kayaking with baby!

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Exploring the beach!

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Sisterly bonding!

We also visited a cool Bird Sanctuary – ok – it would have been a bit cooler if it were not for the 6 million strong mosquito population – but P enjoyed herself nevertheless:

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Penelope still enjoyed it!

And there were some more, notable foodie highlights in Key Largo:

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Fresh fish and grits at Mrs Mac’s Kitchen with $2 mimosas.  Now we’re talking

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And the most amazing early birthday cake ever from my Grandmother!  Streudel on top, cheesecake in the middle, coffee cake on the bottom.  Oh my.

Thankfully, with all the delicious vacation foods, I also had a nice stash of Shakeology to keep me on track:

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Seen here in a glamour shot

There were also super healthy foods because my family is good like that too:

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Grilled pineapple and chobani with granola.

Penelope spent as much of her vacation as possible in the water – indiscriminate between pool and ocean – she was fearless and oh so into it.  Few things are more enjoyable, as a parent, than watching your child really enjoy herself – so swimming with baby was definitely a highlight of the trip!

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Let’s go!

The theme of “no let’s not leave the water, ever” continued up until our last night, at my Dad’s condo on Singer Island

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Swimming with Grandpa.  It’s the best

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Someone did NOT want to pose for this picture but I got it anyway because I’m sneaky.  Plus P is wearing her beautiful Lilly dress from Silkworm!

So there you have it.  Our home away from home/second home – Florida.  Like many CT residents, we have deep roots in the state, and wonderful family and friends who we look forward to seeing again very soon!

 

Fun times in #Barnstable with Penelope

Ok, so real talk, I hash tagged Barnstable because I figured no one else will and it would be funny.  It’s a tiny little town in Cape Cod, but boy is is amazing:

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Barnstable for life, homies

Mike’s coworker has a very nice little beach house in the Cape, and has been inviting us up for… well… over a year to be honest.  The timing finally synced up for a night’s journey, and it was really amazing

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Not so amazing: drunk packing apres Talcott the night before, thankfully I got to sleep in the car.

Penelope is a real water baby – I think she is party mermaid- so I figured she would enjoy herself

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And she also got to model this fetching cover up – with googly eyes!- from Auntie Cait she loves it

After a quick, mercilessly traffic free drive up (which would not repeat itself on the way back, ugh) we arrived in Barnstable and headed straight to the beach, via boat

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Which is always the best way to get to the beach

I was strongly reminded of a wonderful spot in Jupiter, FL, that we used to frequent quite often before moving up north – Peanut Island!   But Barnstable is even the next level of the sand levys at Peanut – the entire beach is swallowed up by the sea at high tide, only to emerge again at low tide

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Which makes for a beautiful curve and some seriously flat skylines.  I feel like I finally understand the current Wadsworth matrix by Ruben Ochoa – which conceptualizes a perfectly flat beach skyline in minimalist terms.

The Nannis are most excellent hosts and provided sandwiches, bloody mary cocktails, and a sweet jet ski modeled by Penelope

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Modeled by Penelope, who was quite understandably very into it

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Hello, bloody mary in the flat sand!  Nice to see you

In addition to the generous libations poured by our hosts, I provided a Hartford staple: Onyx Moonshine

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Seen here getting the glamor shot it deserves

The limited edition, summer edition Onyx is infused with cranberries from Cape Cod, so it seemed appropriate to bring it home.  And our hosts had Ripe Agave Lemon Sour mix in the fridge (again, good people) so we were in good shape for mixers!

As well as fun beach cocktails, we enjoyed the time honored New England of clamming.  OK, it was actually musselling.  The nature of the flat sands creates natural divots where savvy bivalves can hang out, even at low tide

musselling

And even savvier humans can harvest them

Penelope was more interested in taking the mussels OUT of the bucket vs putting them in, but she enjoyed herself regardless – I am still convinced she is a baby Lisa Simpson

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She also rocked a fetching tankini

Because of the nature of the disappearing beach, we were forced to pack up and leave around 3 – just as the sun started to peak out – doh!  But it worked out well for the dinner festivities as the guys left for lobstering and we were awarded with an enormous, stunning dinner, pulled fresh from the sea

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One of my favorite things to eat in the whole world

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A really gorgeous plate: fresh lobster, salt potatoes, and zucchini enchiladas

I’ve read about salt potatoes before – a Massachusetts staple – but I’ve never had the pleasure of trying them.  They were so good and simple to make – just baby potatoes boiled with salt (I mean, obviously) the flavors were perfect with the seafood, and the zucchini enchiladas were also delightful and a great recipe to have on hand when the zucchinis really come into season in the next couple of weeks.  I’ve copied it below in case anyone would like it!  Thanks again to our hosts for having us to stay – it was really an awesome mini-trip of food, beach, and general fun.

Zucchini Enchiladas

Ingredients:

10 oz Mexican chorizo

1 c yellow onions, diced

1 tbsp fresh garlic, chopped

1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

½ tsp ground coriander

1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed (15 oz)

1 can diced green chiles (4 oz)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 can red enchilada sauce (15 oz)

4 zucchini, halved lengthwise

8 oz shredded pepper jack cheese

Prep:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees

Scoop the flesh from the zucchinis and set aside

Cook the chorizo in a large sauté pan over medium high heat till browned.   Drain and set aside. Use a bit of the drippings to sauté onions, garlic, oregano, cumin and coriander until onions soften. Stir in beans, chiles, and return chorizo to the pan.

Spread ¼ cup enchilada suace in the bottom of a 11 x 15 inch baking dish. Sprinkle salt over the zucchini and place in the dish. Spoon heaping helpings of the filling into each ‘boat’ and top with cheese and remaining enchilada sauce. Cover dish with foil and roast 15 minutes. Remove foil and roast enchiladas until zucchinis are fork tender and cheese melts – another 20 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.