Friday, January 27, 2012

Fresh Orange Margaritas

Arggh. I can't tell you how crazy it makes me when a whole week passes and I'm unable to post here! I won't start grumbling about how I've been sick all week - because I hate to come here and whine when really, life is good and there are plenty of people out there with much more than a cold to complain about.
I also won't start complaining that I've been so busy. Because the kind of busy I've been is good. Things are happening. The kinds of things that happen when more and more people realize I have this little blog here. I can't tell you how much I appreciate that people actually come here and like what I do. I love hearing that a recipe you found here was the best ever. I love hearing how I've influenced you in some way - to start cooking, to cook more, to try new things. It's the best.
What I will mention is that, while I haven't been here this week - I have been other places, in the form of guest posting. I've done guest posts before, but the month of January has brought more than usual. Honestly, I'm happy to do them and I'm quite flattered that people ask me. So - as a token of my gratitude I thought I'd share them with you here.
Two of the many lovely ladies I met at the Blogshop workshop I did last Fall asked me to guest post for them - both posts are part of a new series each of them have recently begun. First, was Ranu at Sunshine Girl - who's series is called, "Q&A with...". I love reading interview posts and getting turned on to new blog finds, so I'm really enjoying them.
Second, was on a blog called, Running in Heels - written by Emily. Her series is called, "What She Wears" - in which she asks bloggers to share their style. This was a new area for me, but as you know I love making design boards - so I was excited to participate.
Last, but not least, I guest posted this week on a food blog, called Savor the Thyme. I met Jennifer quite awhile back, at the first Fridgidaire/Save the Children event I attended. Her guest series is called "10 Things You Didn't Know About Me" - which features fun interviews and delicious recipes from many of my favorite food bloggers. Needless to say, I was quite happy to participate! The day I met her, I added her blog to my reader feed where I've been enjoying it ever since.
So - I've told you about some of the places I've been this week. Now, I must tell you how you need to make yourself one of these ridiculously tasty margaritas this weekend - or now works too. I know it took awhile for me to get to this important part...especially after the week I've had. But does one really need an entire blog post dedicated to the mixing of a cocktail? I doubt it. But if you do, there should be plenty of info here to help you.
You may remember that I recently posted a link to a gorgeous looking 'Blood Orange Margarita' in one of my Food Blog Love posts. Ever since I saw it, the desire to make one has consumed me. Problem was, I didn't have any blood oranges. Then, when I decided to hunt some down during my next trip to the market - they were pathetically dry and shriveled looking. Defeated, I decided to make another version using Florida juice oranges...which I just so happened to have a massive 25 lb. box of.
I consider myself to be a very good margarita mixer and have made many different types over the years. One thing is always a constant and that is - Patrón tequila. Along with with the good tequila you must also have some sort of orange liqueur. Mostly, I use Cointreau {pricey!}...other times Triple Sec {when money's tight}....and once in a blue moon {usually because it's all I have laying around} I'll use Grand Marnier.

In this particular instance I actually recommend you use Grand Marnier. I find it tends to be sweeter than the other orange liqueur options and I also find the orange flavor to be more intense. For this reason, it's not my favorite option when making a traditional margarita, because it tends to compete with the lime. Here, since the citrus being used is orange, it was the perfect compliment.
However, part of the fun of mixing cocktails is experimentation. Definitely try making one {and that's all I recommend - just one!} with whatever you have on hand.
What makes this margarita special is the fresh squeezed orange juice, which is not what I would have ever thought to make one with - but it is so good.
If you love margaritas as much as I do - be sure to check out this post for Traditional Margaritas...and another one of my favorites - Watermelon Margaritas

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Black Bean, Chicken & Rice Bowl with Apple Salsa

Years ago - pre-kids years ago, when I lived in Brooklyn and had vegetarian eating habits - this was the kind of meal I subsisted on. Yes, I know this isn't a vegetarian recipe - but minus the chicken {and chicken stock} this was the kind of meal I made quite frequently. I was really into the whole idea of a "bowl" type meal. For one, it's cheap! Two, it's easy to make and the leftovers can be used for the following day's bagged work lunch, or another night's dinner. The perfect college girl meal.
It seems like an eternity since I've made a dinner like this and seeing it in the current issue of Bon Appétit made me crave one. I had also just discovered my new favorite way to prepare brown rice, so the timing was perfect.
What makes this recipe unlike many bean and rice "bowl" recipes out there is the apple salsa you serve along with it. I love that it uses Granny Smith apples because they're commonly available throughout the year - so any time is a good time to make some. The tart apples, paired with a bit of tangy lime juice, a kick from the minced red onions along with the brightness of fresh cilantro is a perfect flavor combination. Especially when combined with mildly spicy and slightly smoky black beans.
This recipe is very well fit for being adapted. So - I encourage you to adjust the ingredients or quantities to suit your families tastes - or to possibly use up any leftover bits of this or that you may have hanging around inside your refrigerator. I, myself, adjusted the original recipe quite a bit - adding in some minced jalapeno pepper, for just a touch of heat and changing some of the quantities to suit my taste. I decided to 'press' the garlic, rather than mince it because I have this wonderful {super high quality & well designed} garlic press that does an amazing job {and yes, it is worth spending $40 on}.
When you mince garlic, much of the 'juice' from inside the cloves ends up on your cutting board - but with this tool, every last bit of garlicky goodness ends up in whatever you're preparing.

If you like this recipe, you might also like these posts - Havana Black Beans | Lentil & Bulgur Salad | Perfect Brown Rice

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Happy Weekend //

You won't hear me complaining when we get at least a dozen snowstorms in one winter - as we did last year.  I love the snow.  I love snow days.  I love sledding and then coming inside and drinking hot cocoa [or a hot toddy].  But this year we've had only one...and that one doesn't technically count because it wasn't even winter when it happened.  It was Halloween.  We had some rainy days last week, torrential at times - if only it had been colder we would have had a nice dumping of the white stuff.  Maybe someday soon...
Here are some of my favorite food finds from around the web this week - Hope you enjoy them and that you all have a lovely long weekend! 
{1.} swedish meatballs | dinner with julie {2.} blood orange margaritas | white on rice couple {3.} texas chicken tortilla soup | confections of a foodie bride {4.} edamame salad | the creative salad {5.} chimichurri steak fajitas | simply scratch {6.} hazelnut cherry muesli | the kitchn - loving their new site design too! {7.} apple-cinnamon swirled ice cream with pie crust sprinkles | hungry girl por vida 
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Thursday, January 12, 2012

{The Basics} Perfect Brown Rice

If given a choice between eating white or brown rice, I'd choose brown rice any day.  Not only because it's healthier than choosing white rice, but also because I happen to prefer the way it tastes - I love the nutty flavor and chewy texture of brown rice.  With brown rice the bran layer has been left intact, which makes it high in fiber and essential minerals.  While white rice is more convenient because it cooks faster and is more commonly prefered because it's fluffier in texture, it's not as nutritious and needs to be fortified in order for some of the lost nutrients to be added back in.  Personally, I prefer to stick with the all-natural choice.
The only problem is - brown rice is a pain to cook.  If there's one thing in the kitchen that gives me the biggest challenge it's producing perfectly cooked {not sticky, soggy or mushy} brown rice.  I typically follow the package instructions - which I've learned is not the best idea! - and no matter how precise I am in my measurements, it just never turns out well. 
I've found the only place I can enjoy perfectly cooked brown rice is when I order it from an Asian restaurant.  I believe most use a rice cooker/steamer to achieve their perfect results.  I've considered buying one, but decided it was just another small kitchen appliance that would take up precious cabinet or counter space - not to mention, most decent quality models are very pricey.
So - for me this method from Saveur magazine has been such a great discovery!  I was apprehensive it would work as it claimed, but the results have been spot on and fool-proof after many attempts cooking rice this way.  It really couldn't be simpler and the best part about it is the rice cooks quicker using this method than using the standard water absorpbtion method.  Who has an hour on a weeknight to cook brown rice?  Most nights, I certainly don't - which is why I don't serve it as much as I would like to.
With this method all that is required is some measuring of the two ingredients {dry brown rice and water}, rinsing the rice, followed by 30 minutes of simmering, a quick drain in a colander and then a 10 minute steam {to absorb the last bits of water}.  It is recommended you use a pot with a heavy, tight-fitting lid - something like a Dutch oven would be prefect.  But I realize not everyone owns one of these pots, so I also tried this method using a standard stockpot.  To prevent any steam from escaping through the lid I covered the top of the pot tightly with foil before placing the lid on top - this worked perfectly as well.
I believe this method will work for white rice as well - although the cooking time would be less, of course.  However, I have not tried it - so I can't vouch for the results {If anyone does, please let me know in the comment section}.  Now that I've learned this method I can't say I'll be eating much white rice from now on.
Have any of you tried this method before and had as much success as I did?  What's your favorite way to cook brown rice?
Next up - some recipes to use your perfectly cooked brown rice with!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Happy Weekend //

After pulling out a high fat, high carb recipe this week, I thought I'd be more supportive of those trying to get in shape, lose a few pounds or simply trying to eat healthier by focusing on healthy recipes in this week's Food Blog Love.  It's been a few weeks since I did one of these posts - I sort of decided to take the holidays off.  But this week I'm back at it with some healthy finds from around the blogosphere to possibly help inspire your weekend cooking or weekly menu planning.
{1.} spicy lentil collard wraps from so good & so tasty {2.} a whole slew of roasted chicken dinner ideas from food52 contributors {3.} quinoa cakes with lemon, olive and parsley from love & olive oil {4.} redemption salad from dinner: a love story {5.} an article about being a "part-time" vegan from mark bittman - along with some delicious looking recipes to help you along {6.} a 31 days of salad project from kitchen corners {7.} thinking about doing a New Year's cleanse?  Two interesting looking ones from Goop and Whole Living.  Hmmm...they look hard.  We all know how well I did on my last cleanse attempt!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Scalloped Potatoes & Fennel

I realize that for those of you out there trying to turn over a new healthy-eating leaf this New Year my posting a ridiculously rich and carb-loaded casserole is not exactly helping your cause.  I'm hoping that having this dish on the other side of your computer screen versus sitting right in front of you makes it okay {smiling}.
Truth is, I do have some healthy January recipes on deck.  But before I went ahead with those, I wanted to sneak this one in.  I, for one, am a bit behind with getting started on my resolutions - at least the ones that involve me snapping out of the holiday indulging habits.

This year I hosted dinner at my house on Christmas Day and New Year's Eve.  Both were small gatherings - which was nice.  I didn't have to go too bonkers with the food and my house is small, so intimate groups are my favorite.  When planning my Christmas meal I spotted this recipe from Bon Appétit.  I knew I wanted to make scalloped potatoes, but didn't know exactly what recipe I'd use.  One familiar, or a new one?
When I saw this version, using a mixture of russet potatoes and sliced fennel along with garlic and fresh rosemary - I was sold.

You may have noticed by now...I love fennel and have posted quite a few recipes here featuring it. Such as Fennel & Orange Salad, Edamame & Fennel Salad, Tiny Pasta & Pea Soup, and more recently this Couscous with Roasted Fennel & Toasted Almonds
While it does have a taste similar to black licorice, I don't think you necessarily have to be a fan of licorice in order to like fennel, as the anise flavor is more subtle.  It's especially subtle when you cook the fennel.  In fact, the rosemary used in these scalloped potatoes has such a strong presence that it does knock the fennel flavor out quite a bit. 
While the fennel is subtle in this dish, I still think it's a necessary factor in the overall end result and because of this, I wouldn't want to leave it out.  The flavor of these scalloped potatoes is unlike anything you've probably ever tried.  It has many layers yet everything balances out so well.
I love scalloped potatoes in general, but I really love these.  So much so I polished off whatever was leftover on Christmas later on that evening...just the plastic container, a fork and me.  And because it was Christmas, I didn't have one shred of guilt about it either.
Since they were such a big hit the first time around, I decided to make them again a week later - for New Year's Eve.  I also wanted to blog the recipe, so making them again for guests was a better idea than making them again for no one in particular - only to end up eating the whole thing myself.  
I decided to have my little guy help me out with the recipe.  While we were prepping and measuring, I was also taking photos and doing a dozen different things and because of this an extra cup of cream ended up in the mix.  It was quite the bummer, because while they were still good - they weren't knock my socks off good.  The extra cream made everything too soupy and it was too bad I didn't realize it until after the fact and after any chance to fix it had passed.
It just goes to prove that I have screw ups in the kitchen all the time.