Friday, February 12, 2016

Chipotle Shrimp Tacos with Sumo Citrus Salsa


John, Paul, Ringo and George had it right when they taught us that we all need a little help from our friends. I mean, let's be honest guys, how many times has a good friend come through for you by introducing you to something new, that quickly became one of your favorite things in the whole world? Case in point: the Sumo Citrus. Or, Sumo Mandarin, or most-amazing-citrus-ever, as I've come to call it. It all started with a message -- a single message: "Have you tried Sumos?" Followed by a "no." Which was followed by a "Okay, we'll make it happen." And now, I can't get enough.


The Sumo is a large, seedless, amazingly sweet mandarin that was originally developed in Japan (known as the Dekopon) and is now grown on family farms in my neck of the woods (Central California). They're a cross between a Japanese Satsuma and a sweet California Orange. You can spot these bad boys by their unique look: huge, bright orange, large knot at the top and their ability to be peeled in one piece with hardly any effort. 


As soon as I took apart my first Sumo, and saw how the juices were kept perfectly contained within each section, I knew they would be amazing to use for cooking. When it comes to chopping up citrus, a lot of the time it ends up being a mushy mess and that's just not fun for anyone.

I love using fruit in my salsas. I love the sweetness they bring, and they pair oh-so-perfectly with cilantro, onion and jalapeño. The Sumo mandarins are the perfect ingredient because they dice beautifully and all that gorgeous, vibrant juice is kept perfectly in place. See what I mean?


I'm a huge fan of pretty colors when it comes to food, and, seriously... You can't get any prettier than this! 


A little sweet, a little spicy... you've got your cilantro happening and the bite of the onion... Pure perfection! There are so many things you could put this on that would be delicious -- fish, chicken, pork... but, my favorite has to be... 



Shrimp! Fruit salsas are perfect with shrimp. So perfect. They were meant for each other. Now, shrimp tossed with some chipotle? Even better. You can adjust the chipotle and get the heat you like. We like ours with very little heat. We're not super spicy people, we just love the smokiness that chipotle brings to the table. It's not a party until chipotle shows up!



Now, those are some tasty looking tacos, if I do say so myself. If you take Taco Tuesday seriously, like you should, you're going to want to make these next time. If you're one of those people who likes to eat tacos on days that don't begin with "Tues," you can just make them whenever. They'll still be just as delicious. Maybe even more delicious... who knows!


If you can't get Sumos in your area, you can order them online in an awesome 8-pack that's all wrapped up in a pretty package! Order here.



Chipotle Shrimp Tacos with Sumo Citrus Salsa:

Ingredients:
  • 1 Large Sumo Mandarin, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 Jalapeño, seeded and diced
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons chipotle powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • 1/2 cup shredded cabbage (the red works really well in this recipe!)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco
  • Limes, quartered


Directions:

Combine Sumo pieces, onion, cilantro and jalapeño and place in the refrigerator while you prepare the other ingredients.

In a small bowl, toss shrimp, olive oil, chipotle, oregano, salt & pepper together to coat. Heat a grill pan over high heat for a couple of minutes, until it's ridiculously hot. Place about half of your shrimp in the pan and cook for about 1 minute per side for small shrimp, 2-3 minutes for medium and 3-4 minutes for large. Remove when shrimp are cooked through.

Meanwhile, heat your corn tortillas over your burners (it will give them lovely little char marks) and assemble your tacos. I used about a heaping tablespoon of the salsa over each taco and it was just enough! Serve tacos with lime wedges for squeezing. 

Makes 8 Tacos.





Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Key Lime Macadamia Cookies



You know that whole thing everyone says: "stressed spelled backwards is desserts" -- yeah, that thing. Well, I believe in the power of that saying. Okay, so maybe "power" is a little strong... but, baking/creating sweet treats is really and truly a stress-reliever for me, and most people I know. What is it that makes it so relaxing and therapeutic? 

I think it has something to do with the amount of attention you have to pay to your ingredients and your measurements. When you're dealing with baking sodas, baking powders, different types of flours and sugars, there really is such thing as "too much" or "too little." It seems like there's a lot more trial and error for me when it comes to creating a new dessert recipe.


I think it also has to do with the fact that at the end of the whole process you're going to have something that's going to taste like happiness. Dessert tastes like happiness. Happiness comes in many shapes and forms, like chocolate, peanut butter, lemon, for example. But, overall, desserts in general are comforting and, most importantly, they're always there for you. Chocolate would never call you names. Caramel would never go to the grand opening of that new shoe store with your snooty next door neighbor. And pie would never make fun of you for that new "vintage" hairstyle that you're desperately trying to bring back. 


Really, I believe that food, in general is great way to relieve stress. Whether you're cooking something, baking something or even just enjoying a nice meal at your favorite restaurant, it's a wonderful escape from the every day chaos that we all go through each and every day. No matter who you are, you've got some kind of chaos. For me, it comes in the form of a 2-year-old daredevil that loves watching things break and making wet, gooey, stick-in-your-rug concoctions with anything and everything he can get his hands on.

So, you'll have to excuse me if I hide in my bedroom, pretending to shower, but secretly sneaking the last chocolate chip cookie. Or if I get away to the grocery store and eat a whole bag of chocolate covered pretzels on the drive home. Remember... Stressed spelled backwards is Desserts, people. So, it's okay.


Today I've got a tasty treat for your enjoyment that's bound to be a hit with any citrus lover you know. It's got a great key lime flavor with a bit of nuttiness from the brown butter glaze that's covering the top, and it melts in your mouth. Literally. It's got that great texture that you find in Wedding Cookies, but without all the powdered sugar mess that comes along with them. Oh, and the macadamia nuts? Don't even get me started on those... 


Key Lime Macadamia Cookies:

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup salted butter
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons key lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon key lime zest
  • 2 + 1/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts

For the glaze:
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 4 tablespoons milk


Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Place butter in a small pan (preferably one with a light colored bottom) over medium heat. Now, you have to pay very close attention, as your butter is going to be ready before you know it. Your butter will melt, then it will become foamy and then it will begin to turn a very light golden brown and finally to a nice, deep brown. You will smell the difference! Once it reaches the deep brown, nutty stage, remove it from the heat and transfer it to a small bowl to cool.

Place chopped macadamia nuts in a skillet over medium heat. Stir and toast nuts until fragrant, and until they're just starting to get a nice light brown color. Remove from heat. 

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugars. Stir in key lime juice and zest. Slowly mix in flour until well combined, then fold in macadamia nuts. Shape dough into balls (I used about 1 tablespoon for each) and place on ungreased baking sheet.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until bottoms are golden brown, but not the tops.

Place cookies on a wire rack to cool.

While cookies are cooling, mix your brown butter, powdered sugar and milk in a small mixing bowl. Consistency should be runny.

When cookies are cool, use a spoon to pour glaze over the tops of cookies. I used about 1 large teaspoon for each cookie. 

Allow glaze to set slightly, then devour!

Enjoy! 

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Rice Pilaf


There comes a time in every woman's life where she just has to say to herself "Self, you need to up your side dish game." For far too long I've relied on the help of mashed potatoes, french fries,cheesy potatoes and, dare I say it - boxed rice pilaf. Gasp!

I know. I know. Trust me, I know how pitiful I am. A food blogger who uses Rice-A-Roni to fill the empty void on the plate next to the peas and 4-star roasted chicken with creamy tarragon sauce and a sprinkling of rare Mongolian parsnips. Okay, so I totally made that part up and i'm not even sure if there's such a thing as Mongolian parsnips, but, it doesn't take away from the fact that I'm seriously dropping the ball when it comes to the accompaniments at dinnertime.

Well, fear no more, good people, I have come to tell you that no longer is my pantry filled with small boxes of laziness, guilting me every time I go to grab one... My plates are now overflowing with delicious, flavor-packed rice pilaf with the perfect consistency and texture. No mushy bits, no crunchy bits -- just pure perfect grains of plump rice, noodles, peas, bell pepper, onion and just enough herbs to keep it interesting!

If you're stuck in a side-dish-rut like I was, go ahead and give this recipe a try. It's simple, hard to mess up and the end result will leave you feeling satisfied and proud. Your main dish will love it's new sidekick and all will be right in the world.



Rice Pilaf:

Ingredients:
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup angel hair pasta, broken into small bits
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups long grain white rice
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon dried parsley


Directions:

Bring chicken broth to low simmer, add in thyme and simmer. In the meantime, add angel hair pasta to a large skillet or pot (preferably one that has a lid) over medium heat. Toast until lightly golden, add in olive oil and butter, melt, then add onion and bell pepper and sauté until onion is translucent.

Add peas and garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add rice and stir often while cooking (about 4 minutes) to ensure full coverage. Add broth to mixture, bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow rice to sit, covered, for an additional 10 minutes. 

Fluff rice with fork, mix in parsley and serve.

Enjoy!




Thursday, January 21, 2016

Thai Coconut Red Curry




Have you ever felt like you've found a food that you feel truly represents you? I feel like I've found my spirit food (is that a thing?) in this Thai Coconut Red Curry. This curry is deep, and rich and complex (much like me) and it has the perfect balance of sweetness, heat and complex flavors without actually being overly complex. Again, much like me. I give the illusion of being extremely complex, when in reality, I'm pretty simple. Give me a bag of dark chocolate covered almonds with sea salt, plop me down with a fuzzy blanket and Netflix and you won't hear from me for hours. It's like the equivalent to giving my son a bowl of oranges and turning on Team Umizoomi. Only he'll only be there for 15 minutes. But, I've learned that if I serve them to him with the peel on, it gives me just enough time to do a load of dishes, fold some laundry or, in reality, check Facebook and add a few pins to my food boards. Because, let's face it... when I'm given a break, that break is very rarely used to do something that actually requires movement.

Okay, so, back to the curry... I've been making Thai curry for a few years now and I've made little tweaks here and there, but overall I felt really confident with my recipe. That is, until I was turned on to a little tip that has forever changed my curry. One day when I was checking out at the grocery store with my coconut milk and my other curry ingredients, the lady at the register asked me if I had ever tried using coconut cream instead of the coconut milk in my curry. She insisted that it would change my life and even walked all the way to the back of the store to exchange my coconut milk for the coconut cream. She was right. So right! It makes all the difference. There's no going back for me now and the next time I see her, I might just hug her. Or just tell her how right she was, if she's not a hugger. I guess I'm not really a hugger, either. So, to spare us both the awkwardness, I'll just thank her. 

This week, I'm giving you a fun little challenge. Are you up to it? It doesn't require too much thought, I promise. And you won't even have to stand up or move at all... 

Find your spirit food and let me know what it is below! 

See, it's super easy! And maybe even fun. Think about it and get back to me ;) But until then, enjoy my spirit food...



Thai Coconut Red Curry:

Ingredients:
  • 1 whole chicken (about 3 pounds)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 (4 oz) jar Thai Red Curry Paste
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into 1/4" thick strips
  • 3/4 cup fresh or frozen green beans 
  • 2 (19 oz) cans coconut cream (not coconut milk!)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup Thai basil, chiffonade (for garnish)
  • Cooked Jasmine rice 


Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Prepare chicken for roasting by rinsing it, cleaning cavity and patting it dry. Place on baking sheet or roasting pan and rub with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, turn down oven to 400 degrees and continue to roast for an additional 35-40 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees, Remove and allow chicken to cool slightly. 

Once chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the meat and chop into 1" chunks (or at least as close to that as you can get. Doesn't have to be perfect!)

In a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat, place remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil along with the curry paste. Cook paste for about 2 minutes, stirring every 15 seconds or so. Add onion and garlic and cook until onion is translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Pour in coconut cream, add in brown sugar, ginger and cayenne and mix well. Reduce heat to medium-low and allow mixture to simmer for 15-20 minutes. Crank the heat back up to medium and add in green beans and bell peppers. Cook until al dente, about 6-8 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in lime juice.

Serve curry with a side of steamed jasmine rice (we like to put a nice big scoop on the top!) and topped with fresh Thai basil.

Enjoy!


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Crock Pot Pulled Pork



If you remember last week's recipe, it was a delicious Brown Butter Cheese Sauce that would knock your socks off, and in the post I talked about some amazing Crock Pot Pulled Pork that pairs perfectly with said cheese sauce. Well, today, is your lucky day... The pork recipe is finally yours. 

Over the years my hubby and I have tried so many pulled pork recipes and we were never truly satisfied with any of them. That is, until we discovered a little secret. Do you want to know what that secret is? I don't know if you can handle it. It's a pretty big deal...



Okay, I'll tell you... But, only because I know that you can handle it. The secret to truly perfect pulled pork is pork ribs. Have you tried it? If you're sitting there saying to yourself "Duh! I've done that for years..." Then, you, sir or madam are inspiring and I tip my hat to you. If you're sitting there thinking "What madness is this?? You're crazy!" then I strongly urge you to try it immediately. The difference between using pork roasts and pork ribs is one that can only be described as monumental. The flavor is richer, porkier and so much more satisfying than anything you've tried before. 

Also, it goes perfectly over baked potatoes. With brown butter cheese sauce. And extra cheese. And BACON. And some chives or green onions to finish it off. {Don't forget the sour cream!}

So, instead of taking up more of your precious time talking about how your life will never be the same after you try this recipe and how you'll wish you could turn back the clock and get back all those precious years where you didn't have this delicious pork in your life... I'll just hand over the recipe ;)


Crock Pot Pulled Pork:
Ingredients:
  • 3 pounds country pork ribs (it's perfectly fine if they have bones -- you can remove them after they cook!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1/2 cup cola soda
  • 1 cup sweet barbecue sauce (we use Sweet Baby Ray's original)
Directions:

Place pork in slow cooker and season with salt, pepper and cayenne. Pour in cola and beef broth. Cook on low setting for 7 hours, or until meat is tender and shreds easily. Remove meat, discard bones and excess liquid, shred meat and return to slow cooker. Add in your barbecue sauce, mix well and allow it to cook on low for an additional hour.

Serve it on rolls, over a baked potato, in a casserole, or whatever you choose! It's good no matter what you do with it! Enjoy!









Thursday, January 7, 2016

Brown Butter Cheese Sauce



There are few things I enjoy in life as much as a good cheese sauce. Not only is delicious, velvety cheese the perfect addition to almost any savory dish, it also makes an amazing dipping sauce for most snacks (think pretzels, veggies, pizza sticks). You could even use it as a base to a casserole, or soup, or maybe you just like to eat it straight from the bowl (I won't judge). Whatever the case, I believe that a good, simple cheese sauce is a very important recipe to have in your arsenal, and I'm here to provide you with just that. Plus, this recipe has been elevated with the addition of brown butter. So, not only is it smooth, creamy and cheesy, but, it's also got a wonderful nuttiness to it that you can only get from the brown butter. Yum.


Look at that ooey gooey perfection in that bowl... Okay, sorry... I was mesmerized by the sauce. It happens.

One of my new food obsessions has to be Broccoli & Cheese Baked Potatoes. My kids love it, I love it and my husband tolerates it. For New Year's eve this year we had a baked potato bar with *this* delicious cheese sauce, broccoli, sour cream, green onion, shredded cheese (because you can never have too much cheese, BACON and pulled pork (recipe coming soon!) It made for an amazing presentation and everyone got to create their perfect potato, which seems to always make everyone happy... since they're allowed to pile on as much cheese and bacon as their heart desires. 


If there ever comes a time in my life where I am presented with the option of cheese sauce on any food item I am going to be consuming and I don't jump for joy/and or sing a happy little tune, declaring my love for cheese sauce, you will know that I am either extremely ill, my brain is malfunctioning or I have been abducted by aliens who have taken over my body and not allowed me to have my own thoughts and/or feelings anymore. 

Okay? Okay. I think you're ready for some cheesy goodness now...



Brown Butter Cheese Sauce:

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
3-1/2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Salt & pepper to taste 

Directions:

Place butter in a small pan (preferably one with a light colored bottom) over medium heat. Now, you have to pay very close attention, as your butter is going to be ready before you know it. Your butter will melt, then it will become foamy and then it will begin to turn a very light golden brown and finally to a nice, deep brown. You will smell the difference! Once it reaches the deep brown, nutty stage, remove it from the heat and transfer it to a small bowl to cool slightly. 

Once you're ready to make your sauce, place the brown butter, along with 2 tablespoons of flour, into a medium saucepan over medium heat. Allow the butter/flour to cook for 1 minute, then slowly whisk in your heavy cream and milk. 

Allow sauce to simmer for about 5-7 minutes, or until it has thickened up a bit. Turn off your heat and slowly mix in the shredded cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

That's it!  




Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Ultimate Peanut Butter Popcorn Mix


Now that i'm older and I have a family of my own, I realize how important it is to create memories and traditions with your children. I love the memories I have of my life, growing up with my parents and when I look back on some of my favorite ones, a lot of the time it's nothing crazy... It's those nights when we would just watch a movie together and have a snack or when my mom and I would paint together, or my dad and I would drive up to the mountains for the day. Sometimes it's the little things that make the biggest impact on our kids. Not that a trip to Chuck-E-Cheese or Disneyland isn't memorable (it totally is.) but, I find that my kids love tradition. One of their favorite things to do is have a 'Family Movie Night.' Simple, right? We get a pizza, we make popcorn, we have candy and we pick a family movie that everyone will enjoy. We also bring all of our pillows and blankets out into the living room and make a big, cozy area to lounge while we enjoy our snacks.These are the things they will remember because we have turned it into a tradition in our home.


For our last 'Family Movie Night,' I decided to step it up a notch and instead of our normal M&M's in the popcorn bowl, I thought we could combine them, throw in some extras and make something a little more special. And from that, the Ultimate Peanut Butter Popcorn was born.

All you'll need to make this fun treat are a couple bags of popcorn, some peanut butter chips, pretzels, peanuts and sprinkles, of course. You could also customize with Holiday M&M's and sprinkles if you want to serve it at your kids' school for a class party or at a Holiday party!


The first step is to pop 2 bags of popcorn. Or, if you're feeling extra fancy, you can use your popcorn maker and make fresh popcorn.



Next, you'll melt all of your peanut butter chips in a microwave-safe bowl and place it in a ziptop bag with the end snipped off. Now, swirl it and squeeze it all over the place.



This last step is probably the most fun of all the steps... You get to spread your broken pretzels, peanuts, M&M's and your sprinkles all over the top and make a glorious, colorful masterpiece. And that's it. 3 steps. Could it be any easier? I'm thinking that's a no.



After it cools, your can break it apart and serve it in little cups or bags. It's got that whole sweet/salty thing going on... You're probably going to have a hard time not eating it all. It's perfect for munching on during a movie and it is guaranteed to make any adult feel like a kid again! 

Plus, kids can easily help you make this (or older ones could make it all by themselves!) It just adds a little something special to an already special night! 



The Ultimate Peanut Butter Popcorn Mix:

Ingredients:

  • 2 bags microwave popcorn
  • 1-1/2 cups peanut butter chips
  • 1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts
  • 1/2 cup broken-up pretzel sticks
  • 1/2 cup M&M's
  • 1 tablespoon rainbow sprinkles


Directions:

Pop popcorn in microwave according to package directions. Place popcorn on a baking sheet lined with wax (or parchment) paper. Heat peanut butter chips in microwave-safe bowl in 30-second intervals, stirring after each. Once melted, place into a ziptop bag, seal and snip off a tiny bit of one corner. Squeeze melted peanut butter all over the top of the popcorn and cover with peanuts, pretzels, M&M's and sprinkles.

Allow it to cool, then break apart into small pieces. Serve popcorn in cute little cups or bags. 



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