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Common Ground Gin: Spirit Review


Gin is kind of one of those who love it or hate it spirits. For some, it’s an introduction to aroma and flavor, for others it’s a reminder of bad times in college with simple rock gut gin and juice combinations. For us, it was probably 2013, our first year at Tales of The Cocktail that really opened up our minds to how amazing gin and gin cocktails can be. Today we’re spreading that love, reviewing Common Ground Gin, launched in 2020 by two coworkers and lifelong friends.


No good brand comes without a story, and Common Ground Spirits are no exception. CG is a black-owned distillery out of Berkeley California, started by two coworkers in tech, turned life long friends. The name comes from the belief that finding a common ground with each other adds substance and meaning to life. Their common ground is the belief that everybody, no matter race, religion, or gender identity should have equal opportunities in all aspects of life. And while we seem to be in some dark times these days politically, we can all agree spirits bring us together. And that’s what CG’s Gin and future bourbon expression are all about. Common Ground Gin comes in two expressions, Gin 01 (basil and elderflower) and Gin 02 (black currant and thyme) and today we’ll be sampling them both;

Tasting Notes

Gin 01

nose: Basil is one of those house hold herbs that’s got a hard to miss scent, and its distinction comes through strong in expression 01. Herbal, with a bit of citrus undertones, softened by the elderflower’s sweet aroma.

Tastes: The nose is mostly basil, but the elderflower takes the lead in the flavour. While there are 8 botanicals in total in this expression (Juniper Berries, Cucumber, Basil, Elderflower, Coriander Seed, Rose Petals, Lime Peel, Lemon Peel), the elderflower really finishes off nicely with a sweet honey like taste. The harsh first sip usually associated with gin, is muted by a soft and sweet finish. This would go well in a gin basil smash; a simple cocktail with only 4 ingredients allowing the gin to really shine (Gin, Basil, Lemon Juice, Simple Syrup). The spirit itself is modeled after the Flo & Basy – a cocktail from Coppinger Row in Dublin, Ireland. While we’ve never been there, we can see why they fell in love with the flavor.

Gin 02

nose: Expression two starts out with a much more citrus forward nose, with fruitful undertones and a bit of earthiness. A perfect example of the lemony aroma often associated with thyme followed by the sweet of black currant.

Tastes: What a difference some dried fruit makes. This one has a lot of citrus notes but the flavor profile shouts sweet dried fruits. This combination of botanicals (Black Currant, Thyme, Meyer Lemon peel, Peppercorn, Juniper Berries, Coriander Seed) offers a flavor that in my opinion makes it the perfect gin for your heavy citrus or fruit forward cocktails. Think of a gin paloma or a Blackberry/Raspberry gin rickey.

Price: $39.99

ABV: 45.22%

Final Words: The two expressions we have here couldn’t be more different, a perfect example of how unique the gin category can be. With gin, the only consistency is Juniper, which gives it the earthy/piney scent that comes with love/hate. Besides that, gin is a blank canvas, one that founders Julian & Tory have created to tell their story. Both of these craft gins come in at 45.22% ABV, slightly lower than some of the national brands you may already be familiar with, and are well priced for the category at less than $40. The gin lover can’t go wrong here. So, if you’re in the Bay area, Georgia, or the DMV be sure to check out where can you buy Common Ground Spirits, or visit them and buy directly online from them at

Common Ground Gin


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It’s hot, you’re hungry: summertime cooking shortcuts

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My approach to warm-weather cuisine has always been to reduce use of indoor appliances or take the cooking method outside. That became more of a challenge when we moved to a compact rental unit, but new small-space, double-duty appliances make either easier.

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For indoor meals, Ninja has a double oven with two cavities that separately bake, broil, roast, reheat, keep warm, toast, air-fry/roast, and dehydrate.

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The feature has been emerging in conventional ovens for the past few years, but this sized-down version—about 13 inches high and 16 inches wide—saves even more counterspace and energy. Cook-time is trimmed too: its makers say it can produce an entire meal 65 per cent faster than a traditional oven.

Smells from dishes do not cross over. The unit comes with two sheet pans, wire racks, and an air-fry basket.

Even tinier, the Wonder Oven from online retailer Our Place contains air-fry, bake, roast, toast, reheat, and broil functions within about a square foot. A thimble-like water inlet makes steam—extremely excellent for baking crisp breads and moist roasts, or reviving a day-old baguette.

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Quick to preheat, the interior can accommodate a 4.5-pound chicken, while insertable trays allow multi-level cooking from 200° to 400°F. The machine’s rounded silhouette—available in grey, blue, and a limited-edition spicey clay—is pleasingly retro.

For outdoor cooking, Ninja also just launched an electric wood fire outdoor grill, smoker and air fryer. At about 19 inches wide and 33 inches high, it’s well-suited to a backyard, patio, apartment terrace, or recreational vehicle (RV).

The unit is powered by wood pellets, which have fuel grill, smoke and air-fry functions. It takes about ½ cup to get the distinctive aroma, and the unit comes with two blends. It’s sturdy enough, say the makers, that it can stay outdoors for year-round cooking.

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A home-made pizza with fresh tomato sauce, basil, and mozzarella—served with a leafy salad and a glass of wine—is a simple and delicious summer meal. But because perfect pizza demands a piping hot oven, it’s not an obvious choice on a sizzling day.

The Ooni Karu 16 multi-fuel oven takes the work outside, reaching 500°C/950°F in about 15 minutes with wood, charcoal, or a compatible gas burner that’s sold separately.

That kind of heat makes pizza in about 90 seconds, one that’s tasty enough that international pizza authority Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana certified the Ooni 16 as the first oven they’ve recommended for domestic use. Sized at 33 by 32 by 20 inches, it’s a small-footprint investment in outdoor cooking.

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Homemade sodas
Homemade sodas lets users customize sugar and carbonization levels. Photo by Supplied

For healthy, hydrating summer beverages, consider a Drinkmate OmniFizz soda maker, which carbonates water, juice, iced tea/coffee, wine, cocktails, and non-alcoholic mixes. You can also use it to revive flat beer or soda. It was a top pick for the New York Times’ Wirecutter home tech reviews earlier this year.

My favorite to make are sparkling juices and cold herbal teas—sometimes in combinations like vervain, mint, and camomile—with or without a splash of lemon or a spoonful of honey. While the apple cider on its own is delicious, I’ve heard a splash of bourbon make it even more delightful. I’m not a fan, but I can see how bourbon’s smoky sweetness would work with apples.

Recipes include a refreshing take on orange soda, made from lemon and lime juice, honey and water. There’s even a hand-held portable option that fits in a kitchen drawer, glovebox, or RV drawer.

Remember that any carbonated drink in a container should not be exposed to extreme temperatures for long periods. That means not leaving it in the car on a baking day or deciding to cool one down quickly in the freezer. Because my other summer cooking rule is to avoid sticky—and possibly dangerous—messes to clean up.

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No-Cook Recipes: Salads, Ice Cream and More

It’s inevitable. At some point this summer, it’s going to be too hot, too humid, too overwhelming to cook.

So don’t.

Don’t turn on the stove. Don’t preheat the oven. Don’t melt or sear or sauté.

The 24 recipes that follow are made for the heat by skipping its application altogether, instead prioritizing fresh produce, prepared proteins, assembling, mixing and chilling. Where an original recipe may have called for some cooking, we’ve offered tips and swaps to make sure you don’t turn on the stove, oven, even the toaster.

Of course, there’s no shame in a meal of chips and salsa or a juicy mango eaten messily over the sink. And while some cold sandy cuts at the beach, tucked into hand, then into mouth, may be memorable, they aren’t exactly Proustian.

So, make some food — and some memories. But definitely don’t cook.

Bring the French seaside to you with this recipe from Kay Chun. Yes, you could blanch the suggested vegetables, but why? Pick up some precooked edamame, and stick to dippers like carrots, cucumbers and pleasantly bitter endives. Then take Kay’s advice and bulk it up with some canned tuna or rotisserie chicken.

Recipes: Grand Green Aioli

Malika Ameen, a Pakistani American cookbook author, has watched her family use all kinds of fruit in this savory salad, but hydrating watermelon, as in this recipe she shared with The Times, is ideal for sustaining you when the mercury rises.

Recipes: Watermelon Chaat

Torn pieces of supermarket rotisserie chicken soup in easy sauce, inspired by the Vietnamese condiment nuoc cham, in this weeknight special from Yewande Komolafe. The mint and basil here outnumber the leafy greens for a salad that’s packed with fresh, herbaceous flavor and ready in five minutes. Crispy shallots, also store-bought for minimal effort, add yet another layer of flavor.

When even thinking about cooking is a slog, Hetty McKinnon’s recipe, inspired by Japanese hiyayakko and Chinese liangban tofu, is the ultimate dish. Silken tofu, lightly chilled from the fridge, swims in a gorgeous soy dressing that’s easily doubled, tripled or even quadrupled. It can sit in your refrigerator for months, ready for whenever that summer kitchen slump inevitably arrives.

Recipes: Silken Tofu With Spicy Soy Dressing

Sue Li’s simple dish is so smart and nuanced: Salting the cucumbers draws out any excess liquid while you whisk together a quick sauce. But its true brilliance lies in how the recipe layers the peanut mixture between sheets of cucumber for a rich texture in every bite. For even more crunch, use chile crisp in place of the oil, or chunky peanut butter instead of creamy.

Recipes: Cucumber Salad With Roasted Peanuts and Chile

This caprese revels in the possibility: If your tomato options are limited, this salad proves you can use whatever stone fruit looks good, then soak it in a mixture of lemon juice, sugar and salt until it tastes “perky and bright — like the greatest stone fruit you’ve eaten,” as the recipe’s developer, Ali Slagle, recommends. Peaches, nectarines, plums or cherries all work well here, topped with a little oil and herbs for a dish that cools and invigorates.

Recipes: Stone Fruit Caprese

Two kinds of peppers — hot and sweet — work together in this Mediterranean-inspired salad from Genevieve Ko. A stint in a salt-and-vinegar dressing pickles them gently and quickly, infusing them with the flavor you prepare the rest of the dish. Take a reader’s suggestion and pair the salad with a crunchy baguette for contrasting texture.

Recipes: Tuna Salad With Hot and Sweet Peppers

Cannellini beans step in for the traditional chickpeas in this hummus, which comes together in the food processor and is ready in mere minutes. Genevieve Ko brilliantly includes a bit of miso for depth and a little saltiness, but it’s just as memorable without.

Melissa Clark’s protein-heavy salad is thrillingly zesty. Cut the preparation time for this recipe in half by using store-bought cooked shrimp (or a shrimp cocktail) and just skip the first step. Then, give it all a spritz of lemon at the end until the flavors are balanced and sharp.

Recipes: Shrimp Salad

Traditional kulfi calls for cooking down milk until concentrated and extra sweet, which is less than ideal when the weather’s hot and the outside is so alluring. This shortcut, straight from Tejal Rao’s mother, calls for combining sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream for a similar effect. It comes together in five minutes and freezes overnight, so prepare it in the morning, and pop it in the freezer so it’s ready by dinner’s end.

Recipes: Quick Mango Kulfi

Ali Slagle channels the ’80s — the golden age of goat cheese — with this texture-packed, fruit-filled salad. Sweet nectarines go well with the tangy cheese and the crispy smattering of pita chips, but you can use any seasonal stone fruit as long as it’s juicy and ripe.

Recipes: Chicken Salad With Nectarines and Goat Cheese

As pretty as it is delicious, this summery recipe, influenced by Japanese hiyayakko and Italian caprese salad, tucks rosy peaches and bright-red tomatoes alongside silken tofu and drizzles them all in a dressing spiked with balsamic vinegar and sesame oil. Hana Asbrink, who created the recipe, calls the dressing “the best part!” — impressive in a salad with so much to offer.

Recipes: Cold Tofu Salad With Tomatoes and Peaches

You can wing it when it comes to a charcuterie board, or you can use this clever recipe, which builds to suit your taste. Choose whatever spreadable pâtés, cured meats, cheeses, nuts or olives you like, but don’t skip the super-quick whipped ricotta. Both dip and spread, it turns the whole thing into a meal.

Julia Moskin searched high and low for the finest take on this Spanish classic, and she landed on one from Seville, in Andalusia, known for its hot weather. A half cup of olive oil lends its silky weight and tones down the color of this version. (It’s more orange than red.) Make it, then keep some in the fridge for when an urgent hunger strikes. This gazpacho goes a long way.

Recipes: Best Gazpacho

Run through with fresh herbs (and sour pickles!), this one-bowl tuna salad sandwich is full of robust flavors and textures, especially since Naz Deravian layers potato chips under the bun for a salty crunch that gives way to the creamy filling.

Recipes: Tuna Salad Sandwiches

A ceviche without seafood? Impossible, you might say. But Jocelyn Ramirez’s take on the classic applies a mix of lemon and nori sheets (and wakame, if you like) to grated cauliflower, evoking the brininess of the ocean. No, it’s not the real thing, but it’s just as satisfying.

Recipes: Cauliflower Ceviche

One ingredient. One step. One classic New York Times recipe. Bananas are sliced, frozen and then blended until smooth. That’s it! Top it with rich fudge or chocolate shavings, sprinkles or whipped cream and a cherry. Or just serve it straight with the satisfaction that you made a genuine crowd-pleaser.

Recipes: One-Ingredient Banana Ice Cream

A lightly retro chicken salad, this extra crisp take on a chain restaurant and classic buffet — Sweet Tomatoes, anyone? — pairs wonton strips, shredded rotisserie (or leftover) chicken and chopped romaine hearts with a fruity sesame oil-infused dressing. You could make wonton strips, but don’t. Buy them at the supermarket, as Eric Kim, the recipe’s developer, suggests, or simply set aside a packet from your next takeout order specifically for this dish.

“What a sweet little gentle thing this is,” a reader wrote about this recipe, a centerpiece of many Iranian tables, from Naz Deravian. Each element — feta, basil, mint, cucumbers and watermelon, to name a few — is thoughtfully arranged and delightfully cooling. You can soak the walnuts to temper their bitterness, but it’s completely optional. What isn’t optional is tucking a bit of cheese, herbs and walnuts into the flatbread for a loghmeh, the Persian word for a perfect bite.

Recipes: Naan-o Paneer-o Sabzi

It’s rare that a salad feels like a celebration, but this recipe from Alexa Weibel challenges that assumption with glee. A homemade ranch dressing full of lively cilantro, lime and jalapeño gets drizzled over a collection of crunchy vegetables — romaine hearts, corn, radishes. If you can’t readily find Cotija, you can always swap in Parmesan for a similarly salty umami.

Recipes: Chopped Salad With Jalapeño-Ranch Dressing

An olive salad tops five kinds of cured meat and provolone in this New Orleans classic, adapted from Susan Spungen. Letting everything sit for 10 minutes once assembled and before you dig in may be difficult, but it’s for the best: The sandwich melds together, the juices mingle, the anticipation builds. Make it ahead and keep it chilled, ready to feed a hungry crowd at a moment’s notice.

Recipes: Muffuletta

A tart vinaigrette built in Dijon mustard, orange juice and a splash of lemon, lime or grapefruit juice (your call) gives this salad — originally from Von Diaz’s cookbook “Coconuts and Collards” — an edge, while mellow avocado and sweet shrimp keep it from going too far. Don’t worry about poaching the shrimp here: You can easily use precooked shrimp and toss it with the dressing at the end.

Recipes: Shrimp and Avocado Salad With Citrus Vinaigrette (Camarones a la Vinagreta)

This bright, light but still filling salad from Lidey Heuck loves to tag along — to picnics, potlucks, barbecues, the beach. Take it wherever you think getting hungry is a possibility. It hangs out amenably and welcomes any manner of last-minute additions: canned tuna, olives, herbs. A dream date!

No-Cook Recipes: Salads, Ice Cream and More Read More »

Top 10 kitchen appliances to elevate your daily cooking ritual to the next level

If you’re a passionate lover of cooking, or you’ve recently kicked off your cooking journey, and want to accelerate it even further then you’ve reached the right place. Having an efficient and streamlined cooking process is the key to preparing dishes that simply taste excellent! And the number one aid you need in making an effortless process is an arsenal of great kitchen appliances. With the right kitchen tools and appliances, cooking can be an increasingly fun and simplified process. The right products can reduce your prep time in half, make the little cooking tasks much easier, and help you with tedious and complicated techniques. From the ultimate smoker to a sleek + soft coffee machine for diehard coffee lovers – these innovative and exceptional appliances are all you need in your kitchen.

1. The COit

The COit was designed by LG to function as a robot that can serve as a hub in your kitchen ecosystem. The robot can be easily used by both novices and professional chefs alike, and it functions as an autonomous device that shifts from focus from videography back to cooking – which is the primary aim behind entering a kitchen.

Why is it noteworthy?

The COit features a mountable rail with a circular display that is encircled by a projector, light, camera, and a smart grip. All the various modules can be moved around freely and independently on the small rail, covering the entire prep area or keeping them away from the fire and vapors.

What we like

  • These modules – that clip onto the rail with built-in magnets – can be customized in orientation, depending on user requirements

What we dislike

  • Food over the globe has such diversity, trying to standardize the recipe as per one instruction set would impact the diversity of that dish


The SMOKER-X measures only 24cm x 24cm by 21cm, and it lets you smoke wherever you like – whether indoors or outdoors. The smoker features a compact body that can work with any kind of stovetop – irrespective if it’s gas, electric, or induction. Whenever you feel the craving for a good smoked dish, you can quickly whip out the SMOKER-X to satisfy your appetite.

Why is it noteworthy?

The SMOKER-X is portable, and also extremely versatile, as it allows you to smoke any kind of food or ingredient. If you want a traditional hot barbecue, you can simply place some wood chips in the main frame and light up a fire underneath. Equipped with a built-in thermometer, the smoker gives you a precise readout of how hot it is inside.

What we like

  • The smoker’s unique design creates a narrow 6mm pathway for the smoke to pass through the saucer, making it possible to create all types of smoked foods

What we dislike

  • Aesthetics are a bit boring and unassuming

3. The Luvia Jug

The Luvia Jug lets you watch your water being purified! It’s built from glass and has a good-looking minimal appearance which makes it great to place on your tabletop or kitchen counter.

Why is it noteworthy?

Usually, water purifiers tend to look quite industrial, however, the Luvia has a rather decor-worthy appearance, with a compact catalytic carbon filter suspended in the center, and a chic bamboo lid, which helps you keep it covered.

What we like

  • The jar has a double-walled construction with two levels – one for the water you pour in, and another for the water that gets purified by the Luvia jar
  • Environment-friendly + somewhat recyclable design

What we dislike

  • It seems to be easily breakable

4. The VAVA Air Fryer Sleek Cooker

The VAVA Air Fryer sleek cooker is the ultimate kitchen appliance to take your air frying experience to another level with its visual glass door design. This allows you to keep an eye on your food as it cooks along, letting you keep a constant check on your food.

Why is it noteworthy?

The air fryer features a visual glass door design that lets you keep an eye on your cooking process. It has a customizable temperature and time option that lets you cook to the level of doneness you want in your food. It also features eight preset menus with LED displays allowing you to select your cooking mode easily with the 1-touch LED buttons.

What we like

  • Provides you and your family with a safe cooking experience owing to its FDA and ETL certifications
  • Offers safety protection. You simply need to remove the frying basket while cooking to stop the oven

What we dislike

  • A bulky appliance that will occupy some substantial space on your kitchen countertop

5. The Kohler Purist Suspend Ceiling Mount Kitchen Faucet

The Kohler Purist Suspend Ceiling Mount Kitchen Faucet is the ultimate modernist element you can add to your modern kitchen. This innovative appliance hangs into your kitchen sink and follows commands from a wireless remote puck.

Why is it noteworthy?

The wireless puck controls the temperature, activation, and volume, and allows you to regulate all of them. The hose on the arms rotates at 180 degrees and has a wide variety of spray patterns.

What we like

  • The hose is weighted to prevent splashes
  • The water’s flow on the faucet can be adjusted or stopped

What we dislike

  • We’re not sure how easy it would be to clean and maintain the appliance

6. The Yuanye

The Yuanye is a portable outdoor barbecue grilling pan that you can bring to your outdoor adventures this summer. Even though it looks like a portable projector, it is a super useful outdoor kitchen appliance that has been amped up with a gas tank, fire source, and oil storage module.

Why is it noteworthy?

When you open it up, you’ll see two partitions where you can grill your meats on one side and your vegetables on the other. The design of this portable grill is inspired by the usual suitcases we bring when we travel, from the foldable design to the handle and all the accessories. But instead of being storage for clothes and other stuff we need, it’s actually for the food we need when going on a picnic or camping out in the middle of nature.

What we like

  • You can cook steaks and barbecues of all kinds of meats as well as different types of vegetables with the Yuanye, allowing you to prepare a balanced and well-rounded meal
  • Fashionable + good-looking appliance

What we dislike

  • It’s a concept
  • Looks a bit heavy to be carrying around, better suited for your backyard or close distances

7. Bravas

Say hello to Brava – an oven that harnesses the power of pure light to cook food to perfection! Unlike radiant heat, which heats the entire oven chamber, light can be precisely delivered to specific zones within the oven chamber, allowing you to cook with precise control and no energy wastage.

Why is it noteworthy?

With three dedicated zones on the cooking tray and lights above and below it to match, Brava can cook three-part meals at three different temperatures at the same time, on the same tray, and in minutes as opposed to hours on a grill or oven

What we like

  • The three light zones help focus the heat into three distinct categories, letting you cook meats and veggies on one tray, but at different temperatures
  • A camera built into the smart oven gives you a literal window into the oven’s interiors, letting you see your lasagna bake and your meat sear in real-time

What we dislike

  • Some people may prefer ovens with transparent displays

8. The Woolly Capsule Coffee Machine

The Woolly capsule coffee machine concept radiates a sense of softness and approachability and has a rather adorable appeal to it. It consists of very few straight lines and a muted color palette that heavily avoids black and reds.

Why is it noteworthy?

The coffee machine consists of wooden panels and metallic accents that contrast interestingly against the textured plastic surface of the body, creating a unique composition that is appealing to the eyes.

What we like

  • Soft and friendly aesthetic, unlike the typical leafing coffee machines we come across
  • Features embedded touch-sensitive buttons on the panel that take interaction to the next level

What we dislike

  • A wooden body and coffee-stained fingers may disrupt the aesthetics of the machine

9. Porsche Pepper Grinder

Say no to tedious twisting or manual grinding. Enter, Porsche’s pepper grinder to freshly ground peppercorns and season your dishes in an instant!

Why is it noteworthy?

Are you a foodie who appreciates the finer things in life and has a taste for uber luxe? This Porsche Pepper Grinder is a perfect kitchen gadget designed for your special interests. Conceived keeping a discerning auto enthusiast in mind, this gear stick-inspired pepper grinder draws timeless Porsche design elements to deliver an unparalleled grinding experience.

What we like

  • The intuitive one-touch operation ensures ease of use, making seasoning your favorite dishes a breeze
  • A standout feature of the Porsche Pepper Grinder is its unique rotor-like grind-level adjustment

What we dislike

  • There is minimal transparent/see-through space to judge the quantity of material in the grinder

10. Breeze Coffee Machine

Designed for the South Korean coffee brand Dongsuh, the Breeze coffee machine is a capsule coffee machine with a twist. It has a refreshing soft color palette with white, charcoal and pink variants to represent a gentler personality.

Why is it noteworthy?

The coffee machine features a ridged surface wrapped around the base, which contrasts with the smoother texture of the head. The tall water tank at the back complements the subdued hues of the machine, sending across a message of calm.

What we like

  • The design includes a more tactile interface to operate the machine, using clearly marked LED-backlit buttons at the top of the head

What we dislike

  • It’s a capsule-based coffee machine but there is no knowledge shared on how to make the process reduce wastage or make it more sustainable

Top 10 kitchen appliances to elevate your daily cooking ritual to the next level Read More »

How to make perfect grilled chicken, according to a golf-club chef

Make mouthwatering grilled chicken at home with these simple tips.

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welcome to Clubhouse Eats, where we celebrate the game’s most delectable food and drink. Hope you brought your appetite.


Grilling season is upon us, which means you’ll soon be planning summer barbecues with customary cuts of chicken on the menu. Although teeming with potential, those breasts and thighs — and their potential flavor and tenderness — could go up in flames if you’re not careful. Luckily, we sought the advice of Eric Stenberg, chef at The Wilderness Club in Eureka, Montana, who’s known for grilling some great poultry.

It starts with the marinade, which Chef Stenberg says is a critical component for integrating moisture into the meat prior to cooking and preventing the heat of the barbecue from drying out the chicken. (We’ve included the recipe for one of Chef’s Stenberg’s go-to wet brines below.) Let the meat marinate for at least four hours, though overnight is ideal.

If you want to create your own wet brine or marinade, in Stenberg’s opinion it’s all about creating a levelness in contrasting tastes and flavors. “You should be finding a balance between sweet and sharp,” he explains. “I prefer a little more acidity using skin-on chicken as it tends to help sustain the moisture levels.”

You’re likely conditioned to aggressively trimming fat away from the meat prior to cooking, but when it comes to that preparation, remember that less is more — in this case, trimming less fat can lead to more flavor and tenderness. “Fat is a sealant for moisture,” Stenberg says. “You just want to cook chicken with fat on the less-hot part of the grill to prevent flare ups.”

You may also be trained to think chicken breasts are the best cut for the grill, but chef Stenberg prefers thighs. “The dark meat component is small enough to have one bone,” he explains, “and really holds its flavor and stays moist.”

chicken soup

The secret to making perfect chicken soup, according to a golf-club chef


Shaun Lewis

Finally, when it comes to mastering your grill and the cuts of chicken that you’ll cook there, remember that patience is more than a virtue — it’s a necessity if you want to perfect those well-seasoned and marinated cuts of poultry. “Unless you see flames,” says Stenberg, “don’t rush to open the lid, don’t open the lid too often, and don’t flip the meat too soon. Patience is required for balanced cooking.”

One more thing…. Invest in a digital meat thermometer. As the chef admits, “165 degrees is your friend zone.”

Chef Eric Stenberg’s Wet Brine


1 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
1 cup chopped fresh pineapple
1 cup fire roasted tomatoes, pureed
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup fresh garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. honey
Pinch of dried red chili flakes
Salt and pepper to taste


Mix all ingredients, except for the salt and pepper, in a medium or large bowl.

Season the raw chicken liberally with salt and pepper, then transfer to a large freezer bag.

Pour in the wet brine mixture, making sure each piece of chicken is submerged or well-coated in the liquid.

Refrigerate for at least four hours but preferably overnight.

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29 No-Cook Summer Appetizers – Last Minute Summer Apps

In the summer, we really, truly cannot even with our ovens. So we just simply don’t! And you shouldn’t either! These warm weather dips, bite-sized apps, and even some last-minute favorites will keep you feeling cool, just requiring you to mix, assemble, and snack on. As you’ll find out, when it comes to these 29 clever recipes for no-cook summer appetizers, the most appetizing thing of all is not cooking at all!

We’re no stranger to the beauty of a well-made dip. They often just need a bit of mixing, chopping, and assembling those all-important dipping vehicles. Our guacamole, hummus, and cowboy caviar recipes are our tried-and-true MVPS, but if you want to shake things up, we’ve also got some new classics we’re sure you’ll love, like mango salsa and Greek feta dip.

Summer brings plenty of produce that just needs a bit of simple preparation to become app ready too. Our recipe for bruschetta is the ultimate way to celebrate all those tomatoes from your overgrown plant, California cucumber sushi bites are that perfect mix of light yet hearty, and ditto for our melon prosciutto bites. We even have more than a few ways to serve up some savory watermelon apps to really help you keep your cool, like watermelon pizza and prosciutto-wrapped watermelon.

Want more tips on how to stay chill all summer long? Check out our favorite frozen cocktails, ice cream cakes, no-bake desserts, and no-cook dinners next!

29 No-Cook Summer Appetizers – Last Minute Summer Apps Read More »

Can Cooking Heal Us? Here’s What Experts Say.

In Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2006 bestselling memoir “Eat, Pray, Love,” the author dives into the flavors that make up Italian cuisine to deal with the grief spurred by a divorce and a sedentary life.

In Nora Ephron’s beloved 2009 film “Julie & Julia,” Amy Adams’ character vows to cook all 524 recipes that make up Julia Childs’ iconic cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” in an effort to assuage the frustration she feels toward her job at a local call center.

Taking on the role of successful restaurateur Jane Adler in Nancy Meyers’ 2009 rom-com “It’s Complicated,” Meryl Streep quite literally hides in the protagonist’s home kitchen and bakery when reflecting on (or avoiding) matters of the heart, all the while baking some truly delicious-looking treats on screen.

Food-adjacent plotlines abound throughout Hollywood. In some cases, the characters’ creative arcs and ability to overcome periods of agony and sorrow completely rely on their devotion and relationship to food. In “Burnt,” Bradley Cooper’s character dives into the culinary arts to assuage his drug addiction; “Eat Drink Man Woman,” the 1994 Ang Lee film, uses a family’s standing Sunday night dinner plans as a point of reflection when it comes to dealing with sorrow and joy throughout life’s ups and downs.

It’s clear: thinking, talking and looking at food soothes our spirit. This human tendency was never as pronounced in modern history as it was during the COVID-19 pandemic, when folks constricted to the household turned to cooking and baking to pass the time and, perhaps, alleviated a general sense of sadness.

The trend should come as no surprise, as there have been countless research projects on the topic.

Creative activities like cooking and baking are directly connected to an increased sense of well-being, according to a 2016 study by the University of Otago in New Zealand published in the Journal of Positive Psychology.

Researchers asked 658 university students to keep a record of their activities and associated mental states over 13 days. After partaking in creative pursuits ― a common one among the subjects was cooking new recipes, according to a related study ― students reported feeling more enthusiasm and positive growth than usual, the researchers found.

“The act of cooking and the ability to prepare food is a sacred act in itself,” said Dr. Sudhir Gadh, a board-certified psychiatrist with a private practice in New York. “It’s something you do carefully and with focus. You don’t do it while doing other things and you put care and love into it.”

The ability to focus entirely on the task at hand — one that requires attention to detail, including specific measurements and constant monitoring — allows us to easily block out distractions that may cause stress and anxiety throughout the day.

Of course, the characterization is not solely related to the kitchen. But there’s something about the end result of cooking for oneself, from aromas to colors and flavors, that can bring even more comfort than, say, crocheting or coloring.

“I find that the more time you spend cooking, the more time you want to spend eating and appreciating all the hard work you’ve done,” said Sarah Wagner, a registered dietician with the Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston. “That helps you to be more mindful, have less distractions and be more grateful for the moment.”

“Many people find joy and calmness in baking, because it is very tactile and typically commands your full attention, especially when you use repetitive motions with your hands,” Kimberly Lou, the author of “Becoming Who You’re Meant to Be,” told Fast Company in 2019.

In addition to its therapeutic effects, experts argue that eating food cooked by oneself will help our bodies function better on a biological level.

“When you’re not feeling well and either don’t eat or eat fast foods, you’re not feeding the system that requires you to adjust its inflammation and therefore makes the situation worse,” Gadh said. “If you cook, the food is generally more digestible and it will help the body instead of harming it.”

Wagner agreed, focusing on diet patterns over specific ingredients or foods. “I suggest eating the rainbow and getting a lot of colors in your diet,” she said. “Cooking with more whole ingredients is also important as it might lead you to use family recipes that will connect you to your ancestors and be good mood boosters.”

During the pandemic, the dietician noticed the importance of using whole ingredients in the kitchen. “Some people were just snacking all day because they were at home while others embraced whole foods and cooking and those people were losing weight and feeling healthier,” he noted. “I wish people could indulge in that slower-paced lifestyle again just to enjoy things and the experience of eating more. Convenience and quickness generally outweigh healthiness and appreciation of the meal. I noticed with my peers and patients that a healthy relationship with food goes a lot further than a single ingredient would be on your mood.”

In short: eat well, cook what you eat and don’t focus too much on a single dish. It’s all about the big picture.

Those who thrive on specifics, though, should keep in mind that one of the most important aspects of staying healthy both mentally and physically involves the consumption of water, according to experts. “Water is very good for mood, cognitive performance and energy levels,” Wagner said. “A lot of clients don’t drink enough water but, once they start hydrating, they start to feel a lot better. When you’re dehydrated, you’re not going to work as efficiently.”

Gadh echoed those feelings, suggesting drinking three liters of water a day to stay in shape.

Another tip from the psychiatrist involves the actual act of eating.

“We have to look at meals as a sacred time and a meditative moment of connection and peace,” he argued. “If you’re eating while watching TV, for example, it delegitimizes the importance of breaking bread. Every dinner should be candlelit, feature small amounts of wine and basically be a moment for you to remove yourself from the stimuli that you’re bombarded with all day.”

Can Cooking Heal Us? Here’s What Experts Say. Read More »

Conjoined twins separated at Cook Children’s Medical Center

A team of doctors successfully performed Cook Children’s Medical Center’s first-ever conjoined twin separation surgery.

“It was a scary journey because we didn’t know what was going to happen,” said father James Finley.

Three months into their pregnancy Finley and Amanda Arciniega learned their twin girls were conjoined.

The twins, Jamie Lynn and Amie Lynn, were joined from the lower chest to their belly button and shared a liver.

(Courtesy: Cook Children’s)

“One of the questions they asked when I saw them at three months pregnant was ‘Do we need to go somewhere else?’ And that to me was a very important question,” said Dr. Ben Gbulie, a plastic surgeon at Cook Children’s.

The hospital’s answer to that question: no.

The family’s emotional journey to separate their babies was detailed in a large scale news conference at the hospital complete with a video.

“On the ride home we were just quiet. We were like thank you, but out of all we were like, why us?” said Arciniega through tears.

The work to assemble a world-class team began.

The complexity of what they faced was all documented, from months of planning to the day and minutes before surgery.

“We had to work to find the ideal time timing for when to do this. They were born at 34 weeks, they were a little early ,so we had to grow them and get them a little bit bigger. We got to a point where their positioning was a real challenge,” said neonatologist Dr. Chad Barber.

In the operating room there were two full medical teams, one for each baby girl.

It took five hours in the OR just to prepare before the procedure began, it lasted hours and ended successfully.

The parents broke down in tears upon hearing the surgery was a success.

READ MORE: ‘Get certified’: Stranger saves 10-day-old baby with CPR at restaurant

Bishop TD Jakes, pastor of the twins’ grandmother, was a spiritual counselor for the family.

“I asked everybody from all over the country to pray. We’re just so happy to see the good outcome that came out of this. The doctors did such an amazing job. I’m so inspired,” said Jakes.

“Like a lot of doctors told us the truth, the survival rate after birth. A lot of conjoined twins don’t live that long, and so we’ve learned how to be strong,” said Finley.

“I want to thank Anita and James for the trust you put in us. I hope you can see there’s not just another patient to us. We really love your girls,” said neonatologist Mary Frances.

During Wednesday’s announcement one of the surgeons said the girls can now sleep in their own beds, and grow and develop on their own.

Conjoined twins separated at Cook Children’s Medical Center Read More »

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