Pico de gallo & Guacamole

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Pregnancy cravings…they can be very intense, let me tell you! No, no, no….not mine. At least, not this time! My sister-in-law and her family are expecting another little blessing to their family of 3 this July. We are thrilled for them and can’t wait to meet the little guy. Apparently, he really likes guacamole…which is a good thing they live in the home of the avocado, California. On a recent visit here in Oregon, I made up some guacamole and made one mommy-to-be very happy. Super simple and lots of flavor; guacamole is a great appetizer or add in for a mexican feast. Leave out the avocado and you have pico de gallo! Both will accompany my next post…stay tuned!

Our cast of characters:Image

Now, let’s chop some veggies! First, the tomatoes:Image

Next, some jalapenos….the key to great pico is equal parts. Leave out the seeds for a mild pico…add some in for some kick!Image

Next up, some red onion…or white. Whatever you prefer. The red gives a nice color and a little more zip.Image

Now, time for cilantro…don’t worry about all the stems. Just give it a nice chop!Image

Ok, let’s squeeze some lime and add some salt. Check out this juicer…it works great for lemon and limes, and was a gift from Martha. I love it…you can purchase at SurLaTable…it’ll squeeze out every drop from your fruit!Image

Now, you have your Pico de Gallo….taste and enjoy!Image

At this point, I take out some Pico and leave the rest to turn into guacamole. Roughly chop some avocado and push with back of spoon:

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Add to the Pico de Gallo and you have Guacamole! Enjoy!Image

Ingredients

  • FOR THE PICO DE GALLO:
  • 5 whole Plum (roma) Tomatoes
  • 1/2 whole Large (or 1 Small) Onion
  • 3 whole Jalapeno Peppers
  • Cilantro
  • Lime Juice
  • Salt To Taste
  • _____
  • FOR THE GUACAMOLE:
  • 3 whole Avocados
  • Pico De Gallo
  • Lime Juice
  • Salt To Taste

Preparation Instructions

Pico de Gallo:
Chop jalapenos, tomatoes and onions into a very small dice. (Leave seeds in your jalapenos for a hotter pico). Adjust amount of jalapenos to your preferred temperature. Next, chop up a nice-sized bunch of cilantro. Just remove and discard the long leafless stems before chopping. No need to remove the leaves from the stems completely. Place all of these ingredients together in a bowl and give it a good stir.

Squeeze the juice of half of one lime into the bowl. Add salt to taste and stir again.

Guacamole:
Start with buttery-soft avocados. Halve them lengthwise and remove the pits. Next, with a spoon scrape the “meat” out onto a large plate. Next, with the bottom of a clean cup (or with a fork) mash the avocados, making sure to leave it relatively chunky. Add just a couple of shakes of salt to taste. Next, add a generous helping of Pico de Gallo. Fold together. Lastly squeeze the juice of half of a lime over the top. Give it one last stir.

Source: Pioneer Woman

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Brown Butter Salted Caramel Snickerdoodles

Brown Butter Salted Caramel Snickerdoodles

Snickerdoodles are one of my favorite cookies. And, really I didn’t think a classic snickerdoodle could be improved…man, was I wrong! Found this recipe through Pinterest and couldn’t wait for an occasion to make them. My uncle and a friend of his were coming into town from Indiana for a golfing trip but were going to stay with our family for a couple of days before. Can’t think of a better way to start a “mancation” then staying with family that include a 17 month old and 3 year old…haha! Seriously, we had a great time visiting with them and got excited to hear all about their golfing adventure. The way I show love is in the kitchen…I’d prepared as much food and baked goodies as I could before they arrived and spent the better part of the weekend in the kitchen, but it was worth it. Hope those golfing pants are adjustable! I plan on sharing a few of the recipes from the weekend and this is this is the first. The brown butter adds such an amazing depth of flavor…and, the caramel inside each cookie is such a fun surprise. These cookies would just as fabulous without the caramel, but it does take them to the next level of awesomeness. The sea salt is such a great add too. Hope you enjoy as much as we did!

ingredients:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter, sliced
1 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt
12 caramel squares, cut into 1/2’s

For Rolling the Cookies:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Sea salt, for sprinkling on top of cookies

directions:

1. In a medium bowl, Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

2. To brown the butter, heat a thick-bottomed skillet on medium heat. Add the sliced butter, whisking frequently. Continue to cook the butter until melted. The butter will start to foam and browned specks will begin to form at the bottom of the pan. The butter should have a nutty aroma. Watch the butter carefully because it can go from brown to burnt quickly. Remove butter from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the brown butter and sugars. Mix until blended and smooth. Beat in the egg, yolk, vanilla, and yogurt and mix until combined. Slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

4. Form the dough in a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. You can chill the dough overnight.

5. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Measure about 2 tablespoons of dough and roll into balls. Flatten the ball with the palm of your hand and place a piece of caramel in the center of the dough. Wrap the cookie dough around the caramel, making sure the caramel is completely covered with dough.

6. In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar. Roll the balls in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place dough balls on a large baking sheet that has been lined with a Silpat baking mat or parchment paper. Make sure the cookies are about 2 inches apart. Sprinkle the cookie tops with sea salt.

7. Bake the cookies 8-10 minutes or until the edges of the cookies begin to turn golden brown. The centers will still be soft. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes, or until set. Transfer cookies to a wire cooling rack and cool completely.

Brown Butter Salted Caramel Snickerdoodles

Strawberry Basil Balsamic Bruschetta with Goat Cheese

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Here’s one of my favorite appetizer recipes. It’s super easy, very flavorful and colorful.

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Hope you enjoy!

1 baguette, sliced on the diagonal and toasted

4 oz goat cheese at room temperature

1 pint/basket fresh organic strawberries, diced

2 tablespoons good quality aged balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

In a small bowl, stir strawberries with balsamic and basil. Spread goat cheese over bread slices and top with strawberry mixture.

Source: yummymummykitchen.com

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Orange Poppyseed Muffins

Orange Poppyseed MuffinsYou know how they say that the best things in life come when you least expect it? That was certainly the case when I met my husband while visiting a girlfriend in Portland, Oregon when I was living in Michigan. We had a whirlwind romance that knocked my socks off (and still does). That weekend visit changed my life…and I wasn’t thinking it would. Kind of like these muffins…:) I was whipping up a quick recipe to bring to a family gathering over the weekend along with the Almond Biscotti and Cookies and Cream Pie . I found the recipe through Pinterest and made them while my little boys were napping. I did not take any pictures of the process. That’s what I mean about expectations. I will find other recipes, get the camera out, take tons of pics and NOT post and then when I find a “homerun” I don’t take but a single picture at the end. These muffins are amazing! One of the best things I’ve baked in a long time. I love muffins because they don’t feel as decadent as a cupcake…these are pretty close though. Make them! Your welcome.

INGREDIENTS

For the muffins:
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
    • 1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
    • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 1 cup granulated sugar
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1 ½ tablespoons orange zest (from 1 orange)
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 cup ricotta
For the glaze:
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with paper cups or grease with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter and sugar. Beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until combined. Add in the orange zest and vanilla and beat until combined. With the mixer on low, add in half of the flour mixture and beat until incorporated. Add in half of the ricotta and beat again until incorporated. Repeat this process one more time (flour mixture then ricotta).
  3. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin tins, filling each about ⅔ of the way full. Bake for 19 to 21 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let the muffins cool in the pan for about 5 to 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack. Let the muffins cool for a few additional minutes before adding the glaze.
  4. To make the glaze, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and orange juice in a small bowl. Drizzle the glaze over the warm muffins and allow to set before serving.

Source: CookieMonsterCooking.com
Check her out…she’s got some great pictures!

Almond Biscotti

Almond Biscotti

I love coffee. In fact, most nights I go to bed with a smile as I think about my hot cup awaiting me in just a few hours. Most mornings I am up at by 5, way before the rest of my house. I savor this time to myself. First thing I do is get my coffee brewing. Some mornings, it’s a cup from my Keurig. Other mornings, I pack some Bustello espresso in the Mokapot accompanied with some milk freshly frothed in my Aerrocino. I like a nice, dark roast and a hot mug. Most mornings I read my devotions, browse the web or read a book. It’s my special time and I really enjoy it. As of late, I try to limit my coffee time to 45 minutes and hit the treadmill for a run. My sisters, who live in Michigan, and I are virtually training together to run a half marathon in June. I run three days during the week and a long run on the weekends. I’m starting to look forward to my run as much as my coffee. They both give me a great kickstart to the day. And, what goes better with coffee then a biscotti (or two)! This recipe is super simple to make and the variations are endless. Biscotti will keep for a long time in a sealed container and they also freeze wonderfully. What a nice treat with a morning cup of coffee or perhaps with a latte at the end of a long day…or, why not with a cup of tea in the afternoon? And, these make a great addition to any brunch or tea. I’m bringing them to a weekend get together with family. I’m sure they will go quickly. But, you can be sure I will be dipping one in my cup of coffee this morning!  Hope you enjoy!

ALMOND BISCOTTI

First, bring your eggs to room temperature. Next, toast some almonds. I used whole almonds and toasted them for 8 minutes at 350. Allow those nuts to cool, then coarsely chop. Lower your oven to 300, and prepare your biscotti batter.

Mix your dry ingredients.Almond Biscotti Next, add your coarsely chopped almonds.Almond Biscotti Now, add in the beaten eggs with extracts.Almond Biscotti The batter will be very thick and sticky. After mixing the eggs with the spatula, I got in there with my hands and worked it together. Then, form a ball with the dough and place on a floured surface.Almond Biscotti Split the dough into two equal balls and roll into a log that is about 7 inches long and 3-4 inches wide. I busted out the measuring tape to make sure my size was correct.Almond Biscotti Place on parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 35 minutes. Then, cool on wire racks for 15 minutes.Almond Biscotti Next, you want to cut your biscottis. Take the loaves and cut on the slight diagonal approx 3/4 inches a slice.
Eat the end pieces. 🙂Almond Biscotti Now, you are going to lay your cut pieces back on your parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes. Flip over and bake for 10-15 more minutes. Bake for 15 each side if you like them really crispy. 10 if you like a little chewy/crispy.Almond Biscotti Once you have baked on both sides, let cool on wire rack and make your chocolate. You can melt over a saucepan with boiling water (double boiler) or use the microwave. I used the microwave and it worked great. Melt your chocolate.Almond Biscotti I used semi sweet chocolate chips. Now, start dipping your biscotti. Once covered to your satisfaction, lay on parchment lined baking sheet.Almond Biscotti Once they are all covered, place in fridge for about 10 minutes to set. Almond Biscotti Now, brew yourself some coffee and enjoy!

Here’s the recipe:

3/4 cup almonds
3 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp pure almond extract
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Bring 3 eggs to room temp. Toast almonds at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop. Turn oven down to 300 degrees. Mix eggs and both extracts in a small bowl. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add chopped, toasted almonds to dry ingredients. Next, mix in wet ingredients. Once moistened, use your hands to work ingredients together and form a ball. Place on lightly floured surface. Split ball into 2 and form each half into a log about 7in long and 3-4 in wide. Transfer both logs to parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 35 minutes, until firm to the touch. Cool on wire racks for 15 minutes. Next, transfer logs to cutting board and cut on the slight diagonal into 1/2-3/4 in pieces. Lay pieces flat on parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes (depending on how crispy you like your biscotti), take out and turn over. Then, bake for another 10-15 minutes. Let biscotti cool on wire racks. Melt chocolate chips. Next, dip the biscotti in the melted chocolate and lay on parchment lined cookie sheet. Place chocolate dipped biscotti in the fridge to set for 10 minutes. Biscotti should keep for at least a week in a air tight container. Or, they freeze wonderfully. Just pull out 15-20 minutes before enjoying.

Recipe from Joy of Baking.comAlmond Biscotti

Cookies & Cream Pie

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I love getting together with friends. Love catching up, sharing some laughs and eating yummy food. And, how can you end a fun night with friends, other than with a dreamy dessert?! This pie is a 2 for 1 special as the recipe makes 2 pies. And, you can make in advance. Eat one tonight (and leftovers tomorrow) and the other one is ready to go on a moment’s notice. This pie is a favorite with kids and adults alike. My inspiration for the recipe is from my sister (thank you, Joy!), who followed this recipe and made cupcakes. She has 3 little ones under 5….so if she can do it, so can you!

This recipe could be made as 2 pies, cupcakes or a 13×9 pan…whatever suites your fancy. First, place a stainless steel bowl and whisk (either hand held or stand mixer) in the freezer. These should chill for at least 10 minutes and will be used for the whipped cream. Next, get your bag of chocolate cookies with vanilla cream. I could eat the whole bag used Joe-Joe’s from Trader Joes. GREAT alternative to Oreo’s. Joe-Joe’s don’t have any hydrogenated oils or artificial flavors.

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Place all the cookies into a large ziploc bag and crush. I used a rolling pin. Your goal is to get the cookies to crumble into very small pieces, but they do not need to be exact. The big chunky pieces are my favorite. Add in the melted butter and mix with your hands.

IMG_1718This is your pie crust and crumbly topping. Reserve 1-1 1/2cup and then divide the remainder into the 2 pie pans and press firmly to make your crust. Now, take your ice cream out of the fridge. I used a vanilla bean. We will make the whipped cream while the ice cream softens some. For the whipped cream, I used and doubled Alton Brown’s recipe, which calls for 2 ingredients…heavy cream and sugar. Place the sugar in the cold mixing bowl and pour in the cream. Whip together for a couple minutes until peaks form. That’s it. The original recipe called for Cool Whip, so you could use it. I think you will find the homemade whip cream far more creamy and delicious. I couldn’t get past all those ingredients I saw on the Cool Whip tub. Trader Joe’s does offer a whipped topping alternative in their freezer section if you’d rather. Here’s what mine looked like:IMG_1720Now, spread half of your ice cream over each of your pie crust.IMG_1723

Next, spread some of your reserved crumbles on top of the ice cream. Then, spread whipped cream over each pie. Lick the spatula.IMG_1726I added some more crumbles at this point and then placed both pies in the freezer to set. Now, it’s time to make the hot fudge sauce and toast some pecans (or other nuts) if you’d like. For the pecans, I chopped 1/2 cup and toasted in a pan on the stove for 3-5 minutes. Once you start to smell the aroma of the nuts, they should be ready. Set aside. The hot fudge sauce is so good and just four ingredients: butter, sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips and vanilla. IMG_1727I used organic unsalted butter, semi-sweet chocolate chips, organic sweetened condensed milk (can) and TJ’s Bourbon vanilla. Melt over low heat and stir well to combine. Taste a little. Now, I poured this into a glass container and let cool down in the fridge for 10 minutes. You could also place into a plastic ziploc bag if you wanted to pipe the fudge on….great suggestion if you do cupcakes. Take those pies out of the freezer and cover with the cooled Hot Fudge. Add the remaining crumbs and nuts. I did one pie with nuts and one without.IMG_1730Place them back in the freezer uncovered to set. Our friends like nuts as do we, so we served that one and covered the other with foil for another time.IMG_1732Yum! Here’s the details. Hope you enjoy!

Cookies & Cream Pie
inspired by Just Get Off Your Butt and Bake’s Hot Fudge Oreo Cupcakes

1 pkg Joe-Joe’s cookies (or other Oreo type cookies)
1/4 melted butter
1.5 qt Vanilla Bean Ice Cream (or flavor of your choosing)

Whipped Cream (recipe below)
Hot Fudge Sauce (recipe below)
Toasted nuts (optional)

Place metal bowl and metal whisk in freezer for at least 10 minutes. Crush cookies and combine with melted butter. Reserve 1-1 1/2 cups of the mixture and then spread the remainder between 2 pie pans. Press firmly to create a crust. Place ice cream on the counter to soften. Prepare whipped cream. Spread ice cream between both pies. Top with some of the reserved crumbles. Spread whipped cream over ice cream. Top with some of reserved crumbles and place in freezer. Make your Hot Fudge. Cool the fudge. Take pies out of freezer and pour cooled Hot Fudge over both pies. Top with remaining crumbs and nuts (if using). Place in freezer uncovered until ready to serve. If not serving, same day….once pie has frozen, cover with foil and keep in freezer until ready to serve. Enjoy!!

Whipped Cream Recipe
by Alton Brown

4 tablespoons sugar
2 cups heavy whipping cream

Place the sugar into the mixing bowl and add the whipping cream. Whisk just until the cream reaches stiff peaks.

Hot Fudge Sauce
by Just Get Off Your Butt and Bake

1 can of Condensed Milk
1 stick of Butter
1 tsp Vanilla
1 cup Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips

Mix all ingredients together in a saucepan over low heat, until melted and well blended. If you have any leftover….you can store remaining Hot Fudge in jar with lid, or well sealed container in the fridge. You can keep this in your fridge for many days. Simply warm when ready to use.

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Noodle Bowls

 So, I’ve tried a total of 4 new recipes this past week in hopes to bring you something awesome. No such luck. While nothing was bad, nothing was worth a blog post. We had some seared scallops, butternut squash ravioli, chicken tortilla casserole and some no bake breakfast cookies. I say this so you know that I have been working in the kitchen…waiting for some inspiration.

In the meantime, I want to share a delicious recipe from my friend, Jen. (Thank you, Jennifer!) We brought our 2 little ones over to spend time with her, her husband and their 3 little ones. And, all the kids are 6 and under! Bring on the wine….!! She made this recipe and it was a BIG hit with the adults and kids alike. And, the leftovers are an added bonus. The recipe calls for beef, but we had it with chicken and I made it with both when I tried this recipe the following week. It’s a super easy recipe and the thing that takes the most time is preparing and cutting all the yummy veggies you will use. I can’t wait to make again with some goodies from my garden this summer!

LEMONGRASS MARINADE:

  • 2 stalks fresh lemongrass, outer ends discarded and the rest sliced like a green onion
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbls Asian Fish Sauce
  • 1 Tbls Soy Sauce
  • 4 tsp sugar
  • 2 Tbls Vegetable Oil
  • 1/2 Tsp sesame oil

NOODLE BOWLS:

  • 1 1/2 – 2 lbs flank steak, Skirt steak or sirloin, sliced in thin strips
  • 1 pkg Thai rice noodles or Vermicilli noodles prepared according to package directions.
  • 1 cup julienned carrots
  • 1 cup julienned cucumber
  • Optional items according to your liking:
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, whole or sliced into strips
  • 1/2 cup cilantro or mint leaves, whole or sliced into strips
  • 1/4 cup crushed peanuts
  • 1/4 cup french fried onions

SAUCE:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 3 Tbls fresh lime juice or vinegar
  • 2 Tbls brown sugar
  • 1 to 2 Tbls Chili Garlic Sauce depending on how hot or mild you like the sauce.

Peanut Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 drops of hot sauce
  • 1 minced garlic clove

Mix together and add in 1/2 cup water until desired consistency.

First, you are going to marinate the meat for 2-8 hours (I used flank steak and chicken breasts). One thing I learned is that you should not marinate chicken breasts for more than 30-35 minutes, especially when using lime juice as you are with this recipe. So I used 1/2 the marinade on the beef and put the other 1/2 aside until I later marinaded the chicken. The marinade is super yummy! It was the first time I used lemongrass. It has great flavor and aroma and really adds to the dish. The recipe calls to slice the meat before marinating. I did not. The less I have to handle raw meat the better. I did score the meat by making a tic tac toe board on it with a knife. This allows the meat to better absorb your marinade.

Next, prepare your sauce and put in the fridge covered until it’s time to serve. I used 1 TBS of sriracha and it was pretty spicy so be careful on that step.

Next, prepare your veggies. I used all that were listed other than the cilantro or mint. Thought I’d include a couple pictures of how to julienne the carrots and cut basil for those that need a little visual.

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You will julienne the cucumber the same except don’t use the seedy stuff in the middle.

When you are cutting basil, just place the leaves on top of each other. Then, roll like a cigar and slice. Like this:

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Place all your veggies in a big bowl or serving platter.

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Now, is a good time to marinade your chicken and make your peanut sauce. One thing I would do different is to not use a natural peanut butter. I think (unfortunately) a good ol’ regular, like Jiff, would work better for this recipe. You’ve been warned.

I fired up the grill and got the meat cooking. Then cook your noodles according to package directions. I used the wide rice noodles. Once your meat is grilled to your liking, thinly slice (if you haven’t already) and arrange on a platter. Visually, this is very appealing and fun for everyone to dish up their own bowls.

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Start with noodles, then add veggies and meat, add on some peanuts, fried onions and peanut sauce…then add about 1/4 cup of the fish sauce. Yum!

I forgot to take any more pictures after this point. Oops! But, I’ll leave you with a picture of my leftover noodle bowl the next evening. Hope your family enjoys as much as ours!

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