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15 Picnic Recipes to Celebrate the End of Summer

August 24, 2016
15 Picnic Recipes to Celebrate the End of Summer | Fake Food Free

The end of August is rolling around. Even though schools have started and I’ve been thinking a lot about pumpkins, there is still that one big celebration that closes us out of summer and sends us into the next season. 

For all of those Labor Day cookouts and picnics coming up, I decided to go through some of the recipes here on Fake Food Free and pull out a few that are perfect to take or make for your next cookout. Some are from way back when and others debuted just this summer.

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Grilled Bone In Chicken Breasts with Garlic Sweet Onion Barbecue Sauce

May 25, 2016

These bone in chicken breasts are glazed in a barbecue sauce made of grilled garlic and sweet onions and cooked over the fire until tender and juicy. This post is sponsored by Petaluma Poultry. 

Grilled Bone In Chicken Breasts with Homemade Garlic Sweet Onion Barbecue Sauce Recipe | Fake Food Free #sponsored

It took me a long time to get comfortable around a grill. I’m not sure if it was the dancing flames or maybe it was our society’s perception that grilling is a guy thing. For whatever reason, I could most often be found on the sidelines watching others flip the patties, chops and legs on the grill. 

Then I found myself at a point where I had no choice but to start grilling.  More of the recipes I was developing for clients needed to be grilled and I also got some print writing assignments on best grilling practices. This all led to a lot of research about the craft. I also could no longer wait for the weekend or evenings to have my husband around to fire up our kamado-style grill.

I had to jump in, tongs first. 

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Grilled Cauliflower

March 15, 2016
Grilled Cauliflower Recipe | Fake Food Free

While walking the farmers market last weekend, the cutest little heads of cauliflower caught my attention. What is it about mini vegetables that is irresistible?

I’d seen these before and inquired if they were a specific variety. To my surprise, the vendor told me no. They are simply heads of cauliflower harvested early.

Since this was the case, I knew they wouldn’t be around for long so this time I didn’t pass up the opportunity to grab a few. Three to be exact. I asked if they had more small heads and the three I grabbed were the last. Clearly other people have a thing for mini veggies, too.

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Lemongrass Chili Marinade for Grilled Chicken

May 4, 2015

This recipe combines aromatic lemongrass with spicy chili paste to create a flavorful marinade for grilled chicken. It’s perfect for kicking off the start of grilling season!

Lemongrass Chili Marinade for Grilled Chicken | Fake Food Free

It wasn’t until we began exploring the BBQ meats of Korean, Thai and Hawaiian cuisines that we discovered the deliciousness of the chicken thigh. Prior to that, our meals were most often made up of chicken breasts and the occasional full roasted bird. 

To be honest, the chicken breast alone leaves a lot to be desired. When it is not cooked with the rest of the bird, it’s often dry and tasteless. At least that was my experience. Even the best marinades and fillings rolled up inside couldn’t seem to make it any better. 

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Hanoi Grilled Chicken from The Banh Mi Handbook

September 28, 2014

From the Vietnamese bread and fillings to tangy pickled vegetables, you can create your own restaurant-style sandwich at home with the help of The Banh Mi Handbook and this Hanoi Grilled Chicken.

Hanoi Grilled Chicken from The Banh Mi Handbook | Fake Food Free

I read about the Vietnamese Banh Mi long before I ever had the opportunity to take my first bite. I knew about the soft, but crusty bread, the numerous meat fillings, pickled veggies, hot peppers and the finishing touch of cilantro.

Often when you know this much about a food before you try it, you set yourself up for disappointment. Not so with this sandwich. I had built up in my head what the combination of those flavors would be, and it was better than I anticipated.

I’m not picky about my banh mi. I like the classic version I can grab for $3.50 when passing through Oakland’s Chinatown just as much as I like the fancy version for $10 filled with local, pastured lemongrass chicken that I get at food trucks.

There is an art to it though, don’t you think? It’s not something that I had considered making at home because, while it seems easy, man is it hard to get those flavors right.

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Grilled Chipotle Peach and Nectarine Tilapia Packets

August 19, 2014

Grilled Chipotle Peach and Nectarine Tilapia Packets |

We’ve lived in California less than two years and I’ve already started to lose track of the seasons. I grew up around all sorts of berries in Indiana and I visited the orchards in Kentucky so I could tell you exactly when strawberry, blueberry, peach, plum and apple season where in full swing at different points throughout the summer.

But here? Here, most of those fruits last all summer long.

It’s quite the experience for the fruit and vegetable lover. I aim to cherish every moment of it, while still grounding myself with thoughts of those produce-lacking winter seasons spent in Kentucky.

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Grilled Rosemary and Garlic Salmon with Smoked Sea Salt Recipe

January 27, 2014

Salmon is one thing that I never order when we go out to eat. It’s not that I don’t like it, but that it is so simple to make at home. I can’t justify paying so much more for it when we are out. (I have similar feelings about pasta.)

I’m perfectly capable of tossing some herbs, citrus, salts or oils on a beautiful piece of salmon and putting it on the grill. Not only is it healthy, it one of the fastest meals I can throw together.

With commitments to both eating more fish and firing up the grill more often in the new year, this salmon has been making the dinner rotation quite a bit. I realize not everyone lives in the mid-60 degree temperatures of the East Bay right now, so grilling may feel out of season. You can easily broil or bake the salmon, it just won’t have the same smoky flavor so be sure to try it again when the temps warm and you pull out the grill.

Grilled Rosemary and Garlic Salmon with Smoked Sea Salt

Makes: 6, 4 oz. Servings

4 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ tbsp olive oil + plus extra to brush on the grill
1 ½ tsp finely chopped rosemary leaves, about 2 small sprigs
½ tsp smoked sea salt (this Bourbon Smoked Sea Salt from Kentucky is my favorite)
1 ½ lb. filet of salmon, skin-on (check Seafood Watch for the best varieties)

Fire up the grill and take it high heat, about 475 to 500 degrees F.

In a small dish, stir together the garlic, olive oil, rosemary and salt. Place the salmon on a baking sheet, skin-side down, and rub the herb and oil mix over the fish.

Brush the grill with olive oil and place the salmon on the grill, skin-side down. Grill for 15 to 17 minutes, until the thickest part is cooked through and begins to flake.

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Hog Island Oyster Farm – Marshall, California

February 26, 2013

I was just about to post an Instagram photo when I noticed two little words at the top of my phone. 

No Service. 

Not only-one-bar, or the dreaded E, but no service. Zip, zero. 
Wait a second. We moved from rural Kentucky to California, right? And you are telling me we don’t have service here.
We were headed to Marshall, California. A small community in Marin County, tucked inside the Tomales Bay. After some twists and turns, carefully passing an entire Tour de France of cyclers, and smiling back at enough happy dairy cows to supply my morning coffee for years, we reached our destination – Hog Island Oyster Farm.
It turns out you don’t need cell service. You don’t need anything at all in this patch of paradise except oysters, lemon, butter, hot sauce and maybe some wine. 
A visit to Hog Island was among the many tips we received when we announced – we’re moving to the East Bay. I was introduced to their oysters a few years ago when I visited San Francisco, but this, this is different.  

This is the farm. This is rural California in all its glory. And as my husband and I said to each other a few minutes after we arrived – this is why you live here. 

There are two options for diners at Hog Island. You can order raw oysters shucked for you at The Boat along with bread, cheese and wine or beer, and take a seat at one of the shared picnic tables (first come, first served). 

Your other option is to reserve one of the (5, I think) picnic tables many weeks in advance. With my husband’s birthday in mind, I made a reservation for the end of February back in early January. Here you have a grill and a table to yourself. You bring along your picnic and grilling gear, extra eats, and wine or beer.

Oysters can be purchased near the entrance. You shuck them yourself, and then eat the delicious suckers raw or toss them on the grill. They provide shucking gear, lemon, hot sauce, freshly grated horseradish and Hog Wash (rice vinegar, shallot, jalapeno, cilantro and lime juice.) I’ll add that you are free to order anything from The Boat as well including oysters already shucked for you.

My tip – reserve a picnic table and get the early time slot.

We arrived at 10:30 and were among the first guests there on a Saturday morning. The tranquility of the area set the stage for our entire day. It was absolutely amazing. 
After soaking it all in, we headed over to buy our oysters.

I’ve never been a huge raw oyster fan. That was before I had a Hog Island oyster straight out of the tank, shucked for me. It tasted like the bay – light, salty, and refreshing. We ordered the Atlantics to eat raw, and the small oysters to put on the grill.

Two things I learned during our trip – 1) I cannot shuck an oyster to save my life, and 2) I love grilled oysters! 

Fortunately, my husband was up for the challenge of shucking them all. And a challenge it was. It takes a lot of strength and just the right angle, something I couldn’t master in 3 hours.

If one were to shuck an oyster correctly (from what I understand), you would place oyster cup side down and insert the tip of the shucking knife into the pointed end at the hinge. Once the ligament pops, you slide the knife in along the inside of the top, flat shell and pop it off. Slide the knife under the meat to release it from the shell and remove any pieces of shell that might have broken off.

After gathering a few tips from the staff, we topped our open oysters with a little butter and placed them on the heated charcoal grill. Once the edges of the oyster began to brown we took them off with tongs, topped them with hot sauce and lemon juice, and ate them with a fork. Raw oysters are good, but the grilled are now my favorite.

After filling ourselves with oysters and sourdough bread, we were left with enough time to watch the water (my very favorite pastime), and take in what was around us. The area got crowded by lunchtime, but it was much less so than I was expecting. I’m sure it would be different in the summer. I’m also sure we will find out personally because we will be back a few more times this year. It may be the only time I actually look forward to seeing the words – No Service.

Grilled Marinara Pasta Recipe

August 12, 2012

This recipe is one of the most creative things we’ve made on the grill. Grilling tomatoes in packets and then turning those tomatoes into marinara results in a unforgettable smoky sauce.

Grilled Tomato Marinara Sauce | Fake Food Free
We’ve been making grill packets all summer so when I was thinking of how I could put a twist on a classic tomato sauce, they were the first thing to come to mind. Packets of potatoes, onions, peppers and summer squash work on the grill, so why wouldn’t tomatoes, right?
I have to admit when I got all the grilled veggies pureed and took a taste, I was disappointed. The flavor I wanted just wasn’t there.

But then I added salt.

The next bite popped in my mouth! The salt brought out the smoky flavor from the grill which is exactly what I was hoping for.

A few packets of tomato may not be enough for heating up a large grill, but this marinara is the perfect thing to make when you have the grill up and running for other things. (We grilled ours while making a chicken this weekend.) Then you can quickly throw the sauce together and freeze it for another day, if it doesn’t fit on your current menu.

Grill packets with tomatoes for marinara.

This ends up being a basic marinara for any type of pasta. I am a huge fan of homemade, but I went for a quick meal this weekend and used a whole wheat penne.

The veggies only need to be roughly chopped for the grill packets. They’ll be going straight to the blender to puree so there is no reason to spend a lot of time on the prep.

I’ll be doing this with our tomatoes for the rest of the season! The flavor is so much more interesting than when I roast the veggies in the oven.

Grilled Tomato Marinara Sauce | Fake Food Free

Grilled Tomato Marinara Pasta Recipe
Makes: 4 to 6 servings
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  1. 1 medium onion, chopped
  2. 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  3. ~2.75 lbs. tomatoes, cored and chopped
  4. 1 red or green bell pepper, cored and chopped
  5. ~15 leaves fresh basil
  6. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  7. 1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  8. 1 teaspoon fine ground sea salt
  9. 1 lb. pasta, cooked
  10. Extra basil and shaved parmesan for serving
  1. Preheat the grill to 325 degrees F.
  2. You will need 3 large pieces of aluminum foil, about 14 to 16 inches long. You want the veggies wrapped well, so be generous.
  3. Divide the onion, garlic cloves, tomatoes, bell pepper and basil evenly on each of the three pieces of foil. Drizzle some of the olive oil over the vegetables in each packet and move the veggies around a bit to coat them.
  4. You can use any packet making techniques, but I fold the long sides in first. Then I pull the two ends together in the center to meet and roll them down, smashing things together as I go. As long as you have a sealed packet, you'll be fine. Need help? Here's a post with instructions.
  5. Place the packets on the grill, and close the lid. Let cook for 30 to 40 minutes, until the veggies are tender. Remove them from the grill and transport them into the kitchen.
  6. Once they are cool enough to touch, place the veggies in the blender in batches. Puree until smooth and pour the puree in a soup pot on the stove. Turn on low heat, and add the balsamic vinegar and the salt. Stir occasionally. You are only warming the sauce again until you are ready to eat it. (If you plan to freeze it, you can skip the heating, mix in the vinegar and salt and portion it for freezing.)
  7. Place the pasta in a serving bowl. Pour the sauce over pasta, and garnish with basil and parmesan cheese.
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Thanks for reading! All images and content are the property of Fake Food Free unless otherwise stated. Please do not republish full recipes and images without written permission. What is okay? Feel free to Pin images, share links to my posts or share the photo in a round up post with the title of this recipe and a link back to the post. If you want to use a photo or full recipe, just ask. I’m sure we can work something out.