Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Cara Cara orange margaritas (It’s been a whole year!)

[Tap, tap] Is this thing on?

Well, I did it. A whole year. Not a single post in 2013. I didn’t mean to go a whole year without blogging, but once I started not blogging it was hard to stop not blogging. Wait, what? I think I’m a little rusty…

Here’s where I should probably make a bunch of excuses, but it really comes down to this: I just didn’t feel like it. If I’d wanted to, I could have made time. Today, I actually felt like making time.

So, hopefully I’ll pop in here a little more often. I’ll shoot for more than once a year. That should be doable. Under-promise and over-deliver, right?

In the meantime, I offer you this margarita. Can you resist the draw of the overpriced seasonal oranges? I can’t. With a fruit bowl brimming full of Cara Cara oranges, I did the logical thing – juiced them and made cocktails. You didn’t think I was going to say I ate them, did you?

Cara Cara orange margarita recipe

Cara Cara oranges have a distinct pinkish flesh and while sweet, are also fairly tart. If you’re looking for a sugary margarita, this is definitely not it. 

Makes 1

  • 1-1/2 - 2 ounces tequila blanco (I used Cazadores)
  • 3 ounces fresh Cara Cara orange juice
  • 1/2 ounce lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce triple sec
  • Salt
  • Lime wedge
  • Ice

  1. Run the lime wedge around glass, then dip rim in salt.
  2. Fill shaker with ice. Add remaining ingredients. Shake and pour into glass.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Chipotle-Rosemary Sweet Potato Soup: An Ode to Bacon

Oh, bacon…

I love bacon. Always have; always will. And I don’t care if it’s “trendy” to love bacon, or if that trend is deemed “over” by famous chefs. If you ask me, adding bacon to something will most likely make it better. (I am tempted to say that I could eat nothing but bacon, but Andy once ate a whole pound in one sitting and says it put him off the wondrous pork product for quite awhile. I don’t want to risk that…)

When I don’t love an ingredient, I tend to try to disguise it by either adding other ingredients I do love (hello, bacon), or by pureeing it into creamy soup form. So…garnet yams in our farm box? They could only be turned into creamy soup with bacon. 

After consulting The Flavor Bible and not finding the flavors I wanted to find listed under sweet potato, I went rogue and just started adding flavors I love. There were definite moments of uncertainty, but I was shocked at how good this soup turned out. The sweetness of the roasted veggies, the smokiness of the bacon, a little heat from the chipotle and subtle hints of rosemary and cumin are just perfect together. 

And if there’s any point while cooking a dish where you can exclaim, “the leeks and shallots are basically melted into the bacon grease!” well, then you know you’ve got something tasty on your hands.

The moral of the story is that even if you hate sweet potatoes, you will love this soup. Trust me – any recipe that starts by caramelizing anything in bacon grease is a winner (unless you’re a vegetarian, then completely disregard this entire post). 

Chipotle-Rosemary Sweet Potato Soup with Bacon

Serves 4-6

  • 1 1/2 pounds garnet yams or sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 pound carrots
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin, divided use
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary, divided use
  • 3 strips bacon, chopped
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon pureed chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth (plus more as needed)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • salt 
  • pepper
  • grated cheese, optional

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Peel and chop sweet potatoes and carrots into chunks. Toss in a glass baking dish with olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, and1 teaspoon of rosemary. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until fork tender. Remove from oven and reserve.
  3. In a dutch oven, fry chopped bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels, reserving bacon grease in pot. (There should be about 2 tablespoons.)
  4. In the same pot, add leeks and shallots. Saute over low heat until caramelized. (This takes quite a while…well over 20 minutes I think, but I forgot to set a timer. Be patient; it’s worth it.)
  5. Add remaining cumin and rosemary, garlic and chipotle puree. Stir to combine and let cook for a few minutes. 
  6. Add white wine to pot, scraping bottom to deglaze. Let liquid cook mostly down, then add roasted sweet potato and carrot mixture. 
  7. Pour in chicken stock. Bring to a simmer, then cover and simmer on low for about 10 minutes.
  8. Using an immersion blender, puree mixture until smooth. Add chicken stock as needed to achieve desired thickness. When pureed, stir in cream. Season with salt and pepper. Return pot to heat and warm through.
  9. Serve topped with reserved bacon and grated cheese, if desired.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gingerbread trifle, procrastination and giving thanks

I’ve got a bad case of procrastinator-itis…

I’ve been this way all my life. The only thing that usually gets me going is when it really matters and I’m eight hours away from a deadline that I’ve put off for weeks and start freaking out because I haven’t even started the book I was supposed to read for the report that’s due so I jump in the car to buy the CliffsNotes only to run into my English teacher at the book store with said CliffsNotes in hand. Oh wait...we’re not talking about high school, are we?

Nevertheless, what I know about myself is that if I don’t have a deadline, things don’t tend to get done. Giving myself arbitrary deadlines doesn’t work because I know that there are no consequences to letting them lapse. That puts me in a bit of a pickle with the ol’ blog.  No hard deadlines = one post every six weeks. 

But I do want to blog and I’ve been thinking about it a lot, actually, which is a good sign. And then the other day my dad asked me one simple question that provoked this post:

“So, are you ever going to put anything up on your blog again?” 

This wasn’t the same nagging voice that I hear in my own head. And frankly, I’m pretty sure he was just making conversation since he doesn’t exactly need my blog to keep up with the goings-on around here. But just having the question asked gave me that little kick I needed. And here we are…

November -- the season for giving thanks. I woke up knowing I was going to write a post today about being thankful with an entirely different list in mind. But when I woke up, I could hear the rain falling outside and my plans immediately went out the window. I’m a sucker for rain; could listen to it for hours. So, I’m concentrating on today instead. Lying in bed next to my husband and best friend, listening to that mesmerizing sound of rainfall -- that is what I’m thankful for today. Just this one tiny moment in time…

Gingerbread Trifle with Mascarpone-Amaretto Whipped Cream

Makes 4-6 

2 cups crumbled gingerbread cake (I used Trader Joe’s cake mix)
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons Amaretto
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 cup heavy cream
sliced almonds

In an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, combine mascarpone, Amaretto and honey on medium speed until smooth. Add heavy cream and whip mixture on high until peak form. Spoon whipped cream into a pastry bag.
In small glasses, layer about half the gingerbread cake crumbs, pressing down slightly. Pipe whipped cream over the top of the cake, sprinkle with sliced almonds. Add another layer of gingerbread cake using remaining crumbles. Press down slightly. Pipe final layer of whipped cream over the cake. Sprinkle with sliced almonds. (There may be whipped cream left over, depending on size of glasses.)
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. Can be made ahead several hours or even overnight.

Simple, ridiculously good, and you get away with using boxed cake mix. What more could you want in a holiday dessert?

A warning: If you make these miniature versions like I did, you may find yourself eating more than one at a time. There’s a possibility you’ll eat three at a time. Not that I know from experience.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Pumpkin kegs, harvest sangria and news

Hello? Is there anybody out there? If you are, thanks for sticking around. I can explain my absence…really, I can. And it’s actually a legitimate excuse. Drumroll, please…

I GOT A NEW JOB! And I love it. And I still can’t believe it. And it’s been keeping me pretty busy.

You are looking at (work with me here) the new Food and Travel Assignment Editor for SheKnows! I couldn’t say anything for a while, but the secret is out now and, cliché as it may sound, I want to shout it from the rooftops. WOOHOO!

This morning, I was thinking about the fact that I’ve let my blog slide for almost a month. (Nobody loves quinoa salad that much.) I would be lying if I said that a teeny, tiny part of me wouldn’t mind letting it slide for, oh…I don’t know…forever many more months. But then I thought about a conversation I had with my mom a couple years ago and I felt I needed to pay this blog its due. 

I had just started my little space on the internet and like so many do, I thought I would hit that first publish button and the offers would start pouring in. What offers? I don’t know, really. I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to get out of this…I just knew I wanted to get something, anything out of it. There were some rocky times when I had approximately seven readers and I didn’t see much point in continuing. I would whine to my mommy, like any (normal?) 30-year old does, about my woes: “There’s no point…” “This isn’t getting me anywhere…” “Nothing’s ever going to happen…” All I needed were the feet kicking and fist pounding for a full-blown temper tantrum. And my mom, who might be a little bit biased, would always tell me that she just knew something good was going to happen. Mother’s intuition? Try as I might, I didn’t always believe her. But anytime something good did happen, I heard her words. Maybe she was onto something…

When I was first approached by SheKnows to write and create recipes for them, I couldn’t believe my good fortune. I loved doing it and I really loved that something had happened. And now? Well, I love it even more. I still get to write and cook and create recipes, but now I also get to be a part of the creative process that goes into making the whole thing flow. I always wanted to love my job and now I do. It doesn’t get much better than that. 

Moral of the story? Mother knows best…

Now, see above? Behold the pumpkin keg. Yes, that’s a real beer tap and yes, it really does work. Fill it up with anything you’d like, but I highly recommend my harvest sangria. Click here to find out how to make both over at SheKnows. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Quinoa salad with honey-mint vinaigrette and cats in the dryer

Oh, September…why are you flying by so quickly? September was supposed to be different. Unlike August, I was going to be on top of things and post here regularly. Really, I was. But instead, September has been insanely busy and downright uncooperative. My requests for its days to slow down have apparently fallen on deaf ears.

The good news is that although the month is half over, it has been a fantastic couple of weeks, leaving me feeling that good kind of exhausted at the end of the day. And since no real post is coming to my tired brain, I’m just going to tell you a little story about me. It’s always fun to hear about someone’s craziness eccentricities, right?

I have a slightly irrational fear (okay, maybe more than slightly) that I am going to wash, dry, dishwash or cook our kittens. For instance, when doing laundry, I put all the clothes in the washer or dryer, see that there are in fact no kittens inside, start the cycle, and then run around the house counting cats until I have accounted for all three and am completely satisfied that there could not possibly be any animals on spin cycle. Andy pointed out to me the other day that it is a little bit odd that I start the machine and then go looking, but I don’t think that we should start getting technical about things at this point. Likewise, we usually start the dishwasher when we go to bed and I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten back out of bed for a head count to make sure the kittens are not being rinsed amongst the plates and glasses. Silly? NO! Okay…yes, I know it’s silly. BUT, these kittens are crazy and like to be places they shouldn’t be. So far, none of them have shown interest in hopping into a hot oven, but better safe than sorry, I say. In the meantime, Andy will just have to deal with me yelling upstairs to him, “QUICK! HOW MANY KITTENS DO YOU SEE???”

In other news, I have realized a love for quinoa (I know I am considerably late to this trend) and made this salad…

Quinoa salad with honey-mint vinaigrette

Serves 4

1 cup quinoa
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 can white beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup halved or quartered cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 1/2 tablespoons thinly sliced serrano peppers
1/4 cup chopped basil, loosely packed
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped mint

Rinse quinoa in cold water and drain. Put quinoa in a saucepan with chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover. Simmer for about 15 minutes until broth is completely absorbed and quinoa is tender. Fluff with a fork and reserve in pot to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, combine beans, tomatoes, red onion, serrano peppers and quinoa.
In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, honey and mint. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour dressing over quinoa mixture and stir to combine. Stir in basil just before serving.
Serve room temperature or cold.

This is such an easy dish to make, but it’s full of big flavors and herbs and spiciness. As summer is winding down, the mixture of bright produce with hearty beans and quinoa is perfect. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Peanut Butter Cup Rice Krispie Treats and memories of “baking”

When people recall memories from their childhood, they often involve baking in the kitchen with Mom. When I recall memories from my childhood, I have to say that baking with Mom is not one of the first things I think of. 

But here are some of the things I can remember so clearly that it feels like it was yesterday:
  • Dropping a huge canister of Kool-Aid on my bare toe, back when they used to have metal bottoms.
  • Being stung on the palm by a bee that had affixed itself to my stuffed Garfield toy.
  • Running my bike into a tree and ending up in the ER. 
  • Putting my sister’s pajamas down next to my bedside in case I threw up that night. I did and the pajama’s served their purpose, although my sister was not so pleased. 
  • Taking the “Daddy Train” to bed every night, which consisted of him carrying me and my sister on his back at the same time. 
  • Sneakily getting up early on Christmas morning and going through my stocking, only to tear my stocking as I shoved everything back in. Busted.

So, you’ll notice that only one of those memories happened in the kitchen and involved a canister of dyed sugar. What can I say? Mom just isn’t a baker. However, as I made these rice krispie treats, a memory came back to me and suddenly I was 5 years old again:

I’m standing at the stove on my stool, still barefoot. (Apparently the Kool-Aid incident taught me nothing.) The wooden stool is etched with the phrase, “This little stool is mine, I use it all the time, to reach the things I couldn’t, and lots of things I shouldn’t.” I’m stirring a pot of rice krispie treats with all my might. Even at 5, I’m regretting this decision to help Mom, thinking my arm might fall off as the marshmallow sets up.  

Baking? Maybe not. But a kitchen memory with Mom all the same. 

It has been a long time since I made rice krispie treats and I forgot how perfect they are, especially when they’re peanut butter laden. 

Peanut Butter Cup Rice Krispie Treats

6 cups crisp rice cereal
5 ounces peanut butter cups, chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
10 ounces marshmallows

1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter
2 ounces peanut butter cups, chopped

Line a 13x9 inch pan with parchment paper.
In a large pot, melt the butter and add peanut butter. Stir together until smooth. Add marshmallows and stir constantly until completely melted. 
Add cereal and peanut butter cups and immediately stir to coat with marshmallow mixture. When completely coated, pour mixture into prepared pan. Spread out into corners and press evenly into pan. Let cool.
When cool, prepare topping by mixing peanut butter, powdered sugar and melted butter together until smooth. 
Remove rice krispie treats from pan and spread topping evenly over the top. Sprinkle chopped peanut butter cups over the topping and press down lightly to adhere. Cut into squares.

If you’re a peanut butter lover, do yourself a favor and make these soon. They are ridiculously easy (except for the stirring), and ridiculously good. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Coconut curry mussels and two years gone by

It’s my anniversary! Well, not mine

This weekend marked the two-year anniversary of Tasty Trials and although I’ve only managed to get a handful of posts up this month, I have to say that I’m shocked to have gone two years at all with any kind of regular frequency. See, I tend to be a project-starter but not so much a project-finisher, as evidenced by the countless boxes of crap crafts taking up space in the garage.

Thoughts like “I will be a scrapbook queen and document each and every moment of our lives with little bits of cutesy paper!” or “I can totally make handmade jewelry…think of how stylish and trendy I’ll be, at a fraction of the cost!” or “Abstract painting on canvas? Yes, I can definitely make some art worth hanging on our walls,” propel me to the nearest craft store to buy all the necessary fixings to accomplish these tasks. My grand plans quickly turn into dust collectors and my thoughts are replaced with things like, “I hate little bits of cutesy paper…stupid paper,” and “Why make homemade jewelry when there are perfectly good diamonds needing to be worn?” and “Huh, so there’s a lot more to this abstract painting business than I thought…maybe another glass of wine would help.”

Needless to say, I didn’t think this blog stood much of a chance when I hit that first publish button, but I seem to have finally found a project I can commit to. I don’t think there can ever be a defined “finish,” since there is always food to cook and words to write, and maybe that’s what I was always lacking in a project. It’s here when I want it to be, tucked away in its little corner of the internet instead of mocking me each time I squeeze past it in the garage.

Last August, I recapped my first twelve months with observations and lessons learned. This year, I just want to say thank you. Thank you to all of you who read my blog and tell me you enjoy it. Thank you to all of you who have made a dish from these pages and written to tell me so. Thank you to all of you for sticking around when I’m in a rut and only posting once a week. These are the things that keep me coming back here, even when I’d really rather just take a break and let a little internet dust collect.

To celebrate this two-year milestone, I made myself a big bowl of wonderfully spicy mussels. You were probably expecting a cocktail, huh? I’ve got to say, these mussels might be better than cocktails. Gasp! Crazy, I know.

Spicy Coconut Curry Mussels

Serves 1-2

1 pound fresh mussels, cleaned and debearded
1 lemongrass stalk
1 1/2 tablespoons red Fresno chili pepper, chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon red curry paste
3/4 cup light coconut milk
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped basil
1/2 a lime

Remove the tough outer layer from the lemongrass stalk and bruise with the back of a knife. Cut into 4 pieces and put in a medium saucepan.
Add chili pepper, shallot, garlic, ginger, curry paste, coconut milk and wine to saucepan. Whisk to combine.
Bring mixture to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, remove lemongrass stalk and add mussels and tomatoes. Cover and steam for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat and place mussels in a bowl, topping with cooking liquid. Top with chopped basil and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. (Discard any mussels that have not opened.)
Serve with sliced baguette to sop up juices.

I could eat these every night. The flavors are incredible…chili, lemongrass, garlic, ginger and coconut, all combined to form a broth you want to drink. And the mussels themselves? Oh so tender. The best part about this dish is how easy it is to make. Chop, boil, steam, done. And then you can settle into this delicious bowl, fit for a celebration.  

Because a new set of copper pots cannot go unmentioned or unphotographed! Squeal!

Monday, August 20, 2012

S’mores martinis and indoor camping

Summer is almost over and another year has gone by without us taking a camping trip. Every year we talk about it wistfully, remembering the campfires, the quiet and clear nights under the stars, the bacon and eggs breakfast that always tastes so much better from a camp stove, and of course, the s’mores. But as great as all of those things are, my favorite camping trip ever took place in our own living room.

For my birthday week (yes, week) a few years ago, Andy surprised me with an indoor camping extravaganza. He is notoriously bad at waiting to give gifts, and several days before my birthday, he just couldn’t wait any longer. I was sent upstairs with a glass of wine and instructions to close the door behind me. Soon after, I heard odd noises coming from downstairs.

Turns out, putting up a ridiculously large tent indoors by yourself can be a bit difficult. The noises I heard were the mile-long tent poles scraping against the walls and Andy described a scene that I would have paid to witness. After his wrestling match was over and the entire living room was turned into a tent (complete with equally large air mattress and fluffy sleeping bags), we did indeed have our indoor camping extravaganza. And the tent may or may not have stayed up for at least a week, and I may or may not have passed out in it after overindulging on my actual birthday. Best camping trip ever.

For your next indoor camping trip, make a batch of s’mores martinis in place of the real deal, no campfire necessary.

S’mores Martini

Makes 1 or 2, depending on size of glass

4 ounces fluffed marshmallow vodka
1 ounce crème de cacao
1 teaspoon chocolate syrup, plus extra for rim
2 tablespoons Cool Whip
graham cracker crumbs

Pour some chocolate syrup onto one saucer and graham cracker crumbs onto another. Dip the rim of the martini glass into the chocolate syrup and then into the crumbs to coat.
Put vodka, crème de cacao, 1 teaspoon chocolate syrup and Cool Whip into a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled. Strain into prepared glass.