Saturday, March 22, 2014

Chocolate Chocolate Muffins

Yeah.... let's call them muffins.


Really though, you can call them whatever you want, but what you've got here  is a decadent, delicious, chocoholics dream of a treat.

Casey was craving a little something sweet a couple nights ago and, after some deliberation, he felt that chocolate muffins would be just to thing. Not having a chocolate muffin recipe of my own, I turned to Google for inspiration. What I found was this recipe, which I basically followed directly, except using soy milk instead of whole milk since that is what I had on hand.

Be forewarned, these are not exactly what I would consider a breakfast muffin. For a breakfast muffin, I would refer you back to the heartier, healthier sweet potato and avocado granola muffins here. But heck, if you want to eat these for breakfast, go right ahead. I mean, they ARE muffins, right?... ;)

Chocolate Chocolate Muffins

2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup sugar
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup milk (I used soy, and the muffins taste great)
2 T melted butter
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, plus ~1/3 cup more for sprinkling on top

Preheat your oven to 350 F, and grease and flour a muffin pan, or use muffin/cupcake liners like I did. Next, mix together your dry ingredients (first 5 ingredients above). In a separate bowl, mix together your wet ingredients (next 5 ingredients, mixing together in order they appear above, i.e. mix milk and butter, then add veggie oil, etc.).

Now, all at once, add your wet ingredients to your dry ingredients. Fold/mix them together JUST until incorporated. There will be a few lumps. That is okay. The recipe I linked to above suggested mixing for 10 seconds. I honestly did more like 20 seconds, adding in my 1 cup of chocolate chips at about 15 seconds, but folding just until I had everything incorporated and no more. If the batter is over-mixed, your muffins will turn out dense and rubbery/chewy. No bueno.

Spoon your batter into your muffin pan, and sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup chocolate chips evenly over the tops of the muffins. Bake 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick stuck into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Because I made 12 generously sized muffins instead of 18 ~normal-sized muffins, I baked my muffins for about 25 minutes. Take your muffins out of the oven and let them cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool another 5-10 minutes (or until you can't take it any longer and MUST have a muffin!)

And what can I tell you. The results are amazing. As I said before, I used my normal-sized muffin pan and made 12 very generously sized muffins. I could easily have made 18 muffins, but I didn't feel like dirtying another pan (anyone else HATE doing dishes?). For me, one of these muffins, with their sweetness and richness, is more than enough. You could even split one of these with a friend and still be satisfied (ok, I could split one; don't ask my husband to do that though... those be fightin' words!).

So, let me know what you think! Any other chocolate fans out there that want to check these out? How about other chocolate chocolate muffin recipes that I should give a try? I would love to hear from you!

Until next time!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Spinach Fettuccine Carbonara

Let me tell you, folks. This Christmas, my husband brought his A game.

With these.

Kitchenaid pasta maker attachments for my Kitchenaid stand mixer!!

I know, right? I'm not sure it gets any better.

You can imagine my excitement! Think of it, delicious, homemade pasta any day of the week, any add-ins I want, oh the possibilities! You don't know how excited I get when I spy a spinach penne from Barilla! Now, all of these possibilities, at my finger tips! Homemade!

I really hope I'm not the only one who gets excited over these sorts of things. Anyone? Maybe?

Ahh, who am I kidding. I know you're out there, kindred spirits! And because you are, I know you will love this recipe that I whipped up using my very first batch of homemade fettuccine.


~12 oz spinach fettuccine pasta (or pasta of your choice!)
1 Finely diced medium onion
1 cup baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
3 T bacon bits (or real bacon or pancetta, if you prefer)
2 tsp minced garlic
2 eggs
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
black pepper and salt, to taste

Boil your pasta until it is al dente. Meanwhile, heat ~2T oil in a pan and toss in your onion, bacon bits, and garlic. allow these to fry for ~2 minutes then toss in your mushrooms. Allow everything to fry for another 2-3 minutes until your onions are clear and glossy with brown edges and everything is lovely and fragrant. When your pasta is done, drain it, reserving some of the pasta water. Add your pasta to the onion mixture, coating it in the oil and flavors. Then, mix together your eggs and parmesan cheese with a whisk. Turn the heat off of the saute pan and while everything is still hot, pour your egg/cheese mixture over the pasta. Quickly mix everything together, making sure that the eggs do not scramble, and season to taste with black pepper and salt. Use the leftover pasta water to thin the sauce slightly. Top with another few sprinkles of parmesan cheese, and you are good to go!

Let me tell you, this recipe really is a pleaser. We love it in our house! And the homemade pasta really kicks it up a notch. I was curious how much of a difference it would be to have homemade pasta versus the typical store-bought dried pasta, and all I can tell you is WOW. I am a convert. The texture is so silky, and the flavors are so much more bright than any store-bought pasta I have ever had. For anyone who has not made their own pasta or ventured to a restaurant that makes their own, I would highly encourage you to do so, pronto. =)

I know bacon bits are not what you typically see in carbonara, but when you don't keep much meat in your house, they make for a nice alternative for the salty, smoky flavor the pancetta typically imparts in this dish. As a note, I have made carbonara without the bacon flavors at all, and it still is delicious. However, it is worth noting that the bacon bits I used don't actually contain any meat (nor do many bacon bits--take a look at those labels to check which ones are real vs. fake!), so this is a good option for a Meatless Monday meal, or anyone who doesn't eat meat or is looking to cut back.

Let me know what you think! Anyone else have tips or tricks to amp up carbonara or give it a new twist? How about any groovy homemade pasta recipes to explore? I'd love to hear from you!

Until next time!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Balsamic and Bleu Baby PortoBello Sliders

Say that title five times fast! I have to admit, I couldn't help but go back and capitalize the "B" in portobello after repeating this post title in my head. What can I say? I love alliterations. I love puns too, just in case you were wondering. You were wondering, right?

Okay, okay. You know what else I love? These sliders.

I recently got to indulge myself in watching part of an episode of The Chew. Usually this is not possible since I have to go to work and all (and the Chew is on at noon on weekdays), but the time off work over the holidays allowed me this exciting opportunity (please bear with me and my dorky obsession over food-related television)! I feel the stars were aligning on this particular day because not only did Michael Symon make a Portobello Blue Cheese Sandwich, but what did I find in my fridge during the commercial break directly following the segment? Baby portobello mushrooms! Bleu cheese! Onions! Add that to the half of a baguette on my kitchen counter and some balsamic vinegar, and you get these amazingly delicious (and wonderfully-alliterative) balsamic and bleu baby portobello sliders!

For 10 sliders:
6-8 baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
1/2 onion, thickly sliced (I cut mine in rings, then halved the rings)
~ 2T Balsamic vinegar (or as needed to coat mushrooms and onions)
~ 2T Oil + oil to lightly coat pan
1/2 of a French baguette, sliced into 20 pieces
Bleu cheese, to top
Arugula, red or green leaf lettuce, or other leafy green

Butter one side of each of your baguette slices. On 10 of the slices, sprinkle with bleu cheese (on buttered side), then toast all of your baguette slices. Coat your mushrooms with ~1 T balsamic vinegar and ~1 T oil, and do the same with your onions. Heat a pan over medium heat with oil, and toss in your mushrooms on one side and onions on the other. Allow them sizzle in the pan for about 1 minutes, then put on a lid and allow them to soften for about 2 minutes. Uncover, flip the mushrooms/onions over (you are looking for a bit of caramelization action to be happening) and allow to cook another 1-2 minutes. You are now ready to assemble your sliders! add several slices of mushrooms to 10 of the baguette slices, top with your onions, and add a few leafy greens. I had some extra balsamic/oil in my pan that I drizzled over the sandwich sliders, then topped with the remaining 10 baguette slices.

And there you go. DELICIOUS. Even my wonderful husband who is not a huge mushroom fan (although he's coming around!) really enjoyed these. I particularly enjoyed the balsamic with the meatiness of the portabello mushrooms. Top that with full-flavored smoky bleu cheese, and I was in slider heaven! It is hard to make a satisfying vegetarian sandwich, at least in my experience, but these sliders left nothing wanting.... Except maybe one or two more! ;)

So what do you say? Any other ideas for flavorful, satisfying vegetarian sandwiches? Any ideas for how to mix these sliders up and try new flavor combos? What about grilled portabello mushroom caprese sliders? Mushroom sliders with roasted pepper and curried chickpea puree? Now I'm just making myself hungry. Let me know what you think--I'd love to hear from you!

Until next time!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Egg and Asparagus Bake for Brunch

Ahhh, Christmas time. I love the holidays, I truly do. This year though, things are sweeping by faster than ever. I just realized yesterday that we are less than two weeks out. Yikes!

So, what does this post have to do with Christmas?


I told you, I'm behind the times.

Even if it's not Christmas-y though, I know you are going to enjoy this. Nothing says festive like brunch (right?), and this is a truly delicious and supremely easy recipe. I actually saw a version of this made on Food for Though with Claire Thomas this past summer. Yes, I am a big Saturday morning tv fan. It is one of the few times of day that our local channels feature cooking shows! I don't necessarily miss having cable tv, but boy do I ever miss the Food Network...

Alas, I ramble on. The thing that I like most about this recipe is that you basically only need to use one dish per person, because the dish you mix and bake in is the dish they end up eating out of, too. Awesome.

Ingredients (per person):
Two eggs
1.5 Tablespoons cream (or milk, or half-n-half)
2 stalks asparagus, chopped
Pepper or lemon-pepper seasoning
Oregano (opt)
Parmesan cheese for topping (opt)

To make the dish, whisk your eggs until fluffy in an oven-safe ramekin or small soup bowl, then whisk in your cream or milk and add your seasonings to taste. Chop your asparagus into ~ 1 inch strips and add to the eggs. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven (or toaster oven, like me) at 350 F for 10-15 minutes until the eggs are fluffy and lightly browned on top.

That's it! Let stand for a couple of minutes to cool, then enjoy! This is a delicious base recipe that you can flavor to your choosing. Imagine this egg bake with feta cheese, spinach, and sun-dried tomatoes, or with chopped onion, green pepper, and potatoes. You can really do what you want. I know it can be a challenge to find asparagus this time of year; this asparagus was actually from a bunch that I chopped and froze some time ago, and it worked great. Also, if you don't have the voracious appetite that I have in the morning, you can also make this recipe with one egg per person. Just reduce the cream by half, and you can keep the asparagus the same or reduce by half as well.

I hope this gives you a reason to enjoy a delicious (if slightly summer-y) brunch this holiday season, without the dread of doing all of those dishes! Any of you have other easy, delicious brunch recipes? Let me know--I'd love to hear from you!

Until next time!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Make your own chiffon scarf!

Scarves, scarves, they are everywhere! And I must admit that, these days, I feel a little lost without one bundled snuggly around my neck. It all started when I found a beautiful vintage chiffon scarf at an outdoor flea market on our last day in Kaikoura while on our honeymoon in New Zealand. When I saw the scarf blowing lightly in the cool breeze of the morning, I grabbed that lovely piece of fabric up, paid the lady her price ($1? $2? I can't remember--only that it was worth it!), and wrapped that scarf around my neck. Ever since then, I have been captivated by scarves of all colors, patterns, and fabrics.

I know I'm not the only one. In fact, I think I arrived rather late on this trend. One thing I will say though--despite my love of scarves, I am unwilling to pay the department store prices for them. The scarves I have are all thrifted, gifted, or handmade (i.e. crocheted, as shown here).

Really, few things are simpler than making a scarf. It is a rectangle that, if needed, is hemmed on all four sides. This is the case for the beautiful floral chiffon scarf I am showing you here today. I found this fabric in the remnants pile at Joann's Fabrics and quickly scooped that baby up. This wasn't the only awesome fabric find that day, but more on that later...

I had 1/2 yd cut from the fabric for use in making the scarf. Although, you really only need 1/4 - 3/8 yd I would say. Also, I think it is worth noting that when I was having this fabric cut, an older woman (70's or so? I'm horrible with ages) behind me in line was quick to swoop in and pick up the remaining amount of the remnant left. She wanted to do so with another floral fabric I had as well, but I ended up taking all the remaining yardage. Muahaha.... Regardless, this provided concrete evidence for something I have supposed for some time: I have the fabric tastes of an older woman.... Classic, I say!

Regardless, on to making the scarf. It really is just as simple as hemming all four edges. For this delicate chiffon fabric, I starched the heck out of the edges of my fabric, then folded over and lightly pressed the fabric edges twice so that my raw edges were hidden in the hem.

Starch the fabric to make it sturdier for hemming.
Make a hem by folding over and pressing twice.
I then just sewed up all the edges with a straight stitch.

With a fabric as delicate as chiffon, you'll want to be extra careful not to lose your fabric edges under your presser foot. I was a little nervous at the start, but really the only semi-difficult sections were the corners. Starch them up, and you should be good do go. You could also do a rolled hem, which might allow you to have an even neater edge, but apparently I have zero patience when sewing, and the way I did it was just easier for me. If I had a rolled-hem foot for my sewing machine, maybe I would have been convinced.

Alas, I'm just blabbering on because I feel like I ought to be telling you something more for this to be a quasi-tutorial. BUT.... that's really pretty much it. Go enjoy your lovely new scarf! I tie the opposite ends of my scarf together to create sort of an infinite scarf, and wrap 2 or 3 times around my neck. It's that simple! Just as an FYI, If you use a knit fabric for your scarf making, things are even easier. You literally have the fabric cut to 1/4, 3/8, or 1/2 yard in store, and call it good. That stuff ain't gonna fray; You have a scarf the minute you walk out that door!

Okay, okay. I hope I've sufficiently convinced you to make your own scarves instead of buying. Now, anyone else have any tips or tricks to share regarding the wonderful world of scarves? If so, please let me know! I'd love to hear from you!

Until next time!

Friday, November 1, 2013

First Anniversary

November 3, 2012 is the day Casey and I got married, making this weekend a very special one for us. It is so strange to me how the year has flown by. I feel as if we just said our vows! Yet, at the same time, our wedding seems to have taken place so long ago. It is funny how time casts a shifting and nostalgic glow on such important events in our lives.

Casey asked me today, if there was one day in my life that I could re-experience (not changing one thing), what day would it be? I told him it would be our wedding day. I had such a wonderful day; the love and excitement that filled the atmosphere--from friends and family gathering with us, to the importance of binding two lives together--it undoubtedly marks one of the greatest days of my life thus far. 

A couple months ago, I stumbled on a poem I had written Casey a couple years ago (yes, I'm one of those cheesy gals that still loves to write poetry...don't judge). In consideration of our anniversary, I thought it might be nice to share. 

Falling in love with Casey is an experience that's hard to describe. How can you put into words how it feels when you finally find the person that makes life--both the good and the bad of it (i.e. midwest winters being the bad ;) )--truly beautiful? That helps you realize a part of yourself that you never knew you had? Words may never come close, but these were some of my first efforts at sorting it out.

Happy Anniversary, Casey!

My Endless Summer

You are an endless summer.
I will feel ever the same.
When the snow flies, swirls around me;
When the snow turns into rain.

You are an endless summer—
A perfect day in June.
When the heat radiates off asphalt
And yards fill in shaded bloom.

Can you hear the children playing?
Laughing in twilight.
Kicking cans and hiding plans;
You are a perfect endless night.

My dear, you are my endless summer.
I see my snow has turned to rain.
And in that first night that flashed the light,
And thunder came again—

Flashed the light, lit up the night;
My summer, you became.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Make your own fabric-covered button earrings!

These are too nifty not to share. I've seen them around the internet for awhile now, but it was seeing them in a store that really pushed me over the edge. I had to make some of my own!

I have trouble making what I would consider nice, quality jewelry. Unfortunately, most of what I end up gluing to the end of an earring post or linking to a chain looks a little reminiscent of a grade school art project. But alas! These earrings are not only easy to make and customizable, but I think they convey a good deal of sophistication, too!

To make these earrings, you'll need the following:

One Cover Button Kit (mine are 1/2" size)
Scrap fabric (+ scrap lining fabric, optional)
Jewelry glue (or hot glue)
Blank Earring Studs, fit to the size of your chosen button (i.e. 12 mm fit 1/2" well)

Or--You can find the studs + button cover kit pieces together as an earring making kit, although my craft stores around here don't have this option, and I was too impatient to wait for a kit in the mail!

First, you will want to cut two circles of your fabric, large enough that they will cover your button with the edges able to fold over into the back of your button piece. Remember that if you are cutting a patterned fabric, arrange and cut your fabric so that the part of the pattern you want to show will be in the center of the circle. An optional step is to cut two smaller circles out of a lining, neutral fabric that are the size of the button itself. If you fabric is thin, you will want to do this; it helps keep the silver of the button from showing through your fabric. I did this for mine a scrap of light beige fabric I had.

Now, if you bought a button kit like I did, you will have to take off the button loop piece from the button back. I did this with a combination of pliers, end cutters, and persistence. It wasn't very difficult actually, but I'm not the most coordinated person in the world when it comes to using tools, and I'm pretty sure I didn't take the time to procure the correctly sized tools for the job.... haha. Either way, when you get the piece out, you will then have a button back with no loop, and just the two holes where the wire loop used to be attached.

Next, layer your outer fabric, then your liner, then your button top on your cover button tool (comes with the kit). I folded my fabric into my button at this point, helping to secure it with a little bit of jewelry glue. Put your button back on top, making sure to keep all the fabric folds underneath it. Then, just press it all down into your cover button tool, and press press press until you feel a little pop! Pull your lovely fabric covered button out of the tool and pat yourself on the back. The hard part is done!

Now all you have to do is dab a little glue on the back of the button and fit your earring post onto the back of the button (it will be a tight fit if you got the same size as your buttons, but this is good to keep things secure; just push one side down at a time and the post should fit into the button back without any trouble).

And you're done! Celebrate a job well done by keeping the first pair for yourself before making some for all your friends!

So what do you think? Have a stash of fabric scraps like I do that you need to make use of? Any tips or tricks for repurposing other things into fancy jewelry? I'd love to hear from you!

Until next time!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Roasted Acorn Squash Seeds

I know what you're probably thinking. Is it worth it?

Yeah. It's worth it.

I've really been getting into the squash season this year, and I'm loving the new dishes I've been trying out. I'm particularly taken with acorn squash and have made a delicious curried acorn squash soup, stuffed squash, as well as roasted squash and other veggies. The first time I opened up one of these acorn squashes this season and prepared to chuck the seeds and stringy muck, I felt a pang of guilt. What a waste of potentially tasty seeds! So, I hesitantly saved the squash gunk until I'd finished with dinner, then decided to try my hand at roasting the seeds.

I have roasted pumpkins seeds before, in much a similar way as I did these, but it's a rare occasion that I buy a whole pumpkin (read: once in the last five years), so this isn't something that  I have a lot of experience with. So, I painstakingly (I know, I'm a cry-baby) separated the acorn squash seeds from the stringy acorn squash gunk--whatever it may actually be called-- oiled them, salted them, and tossed them in the oven.

Amazing. Seriously, these are worth the effort of cleaning off those seeds and not just throwing them away. Trust me--I can be a little lazy when it comes to things like this, but I have made these every time I've used an acorn squash since.

The recipe is too simple to be a recipe, and I basically just rattled it off above, but here you go:

Seeds/gunk from 1 acorn squash
olive or vegetable oil
Salt to taste

First, I soak the seeds and gunk in some water. I'm not sure if this actually helps to loosen the seeds from the gunk, but it seems to so I've stuck with it. I take a handful of gunk/seeds out at a time, pulling the seeds off the gunk, and putting them in a strainer.

After I have all the seeds, I give them a good rinse then pat them dry with a paper towel. Next, I lightly spray my baking sheet with vegetable oil, then put the seeds on the sheet in a single layer. I lightly spray the seeds with the oil again, give them a couple dashes of salt, then mix them gently with my hands to coat.

Make sure your seeds are in a single layer, then put them in the oven at 375 F for 6 - 8 minutes. Keep and eye on these guys, as they can toast pretty quickly. I've seen other recipes that cook at 325 F for a little longer as well, if you want a bit more control over how quickly they are cooking.

And that's it. When the timer goes off, take those lovely, roasty-toasty seeds out of the oven and enjoy! They have a really wonderful texture, not too tough like the larger pumpkin seeds can be, and their nutty, just ever-so-slightly sweet flavor is absolutely amazing. These make a wonderful snack just by themselves, but I imagine they would taste great on a salad as well. To be honest, they've never hung around long enough for me to try anything other than eating them by themselves....

So What do you think--Any other squash seeds you like to roast? Tips or tricks? How about cool recipes or other uses for these tasty seeds? I'd love to hear from you!

Until next time!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Sweet Potato and Avocado Granola Muffins

Now that doesn't sound right. Sweet potato + avocado does not = muffin in my book. But, ya know, sometimes you've just gotta do something crazy.

I'm not sure what came over me the other day, but I decided I wanted to begin a journey. A journey to the perfect muffin. I'm not talking about the (cup)cake batter style delicious concoctions places are selling as muffins these days. They are good and all, but I'm talking a good hearty (yet non-heart-attack-inducing) breakfast muffin.

So of course we had these muffins with dinner the night I made them. Couldn't wait, and I'm not sorry.

Anyway, seeing as how I decided on this goal of perfect muffin creation, I thought I ought to learn a little bit about muffins, including how to make them using a basic ratio recipe that I could substitute into for new flavors. The first surprise for me was that, despite what one may presume based on the sweet, fanciful creations that are sold at your local grocer, a basic muffin recipe does not require any sugar. For a muffin to be a muffin, it requires approximately equal amounts of dry to wet ingredients, with ratios being 2 cups flour : 2 cups liquid (usually  milk) : 1 egg : 1/4 cup fat. You need some rise as well, and this is usually 1 tsp baking powder to 1 cup flour. A true baker may be upset by these ratios, as the ratios should really be dictated by weight (I hear), but for me, this is easy to remember.  So, wielding my newly-learned muffin making ratios, I headed for my pantry.

Not a lot there right now. What did I find? You guessed it--A can of sweet potatoes in light syrup. Oh, and a bag of granola, and an avocado. Good to go.

Using some brilliance (haha), I decided to make a harvest style muffin out of these ingredients. I wanted to make something that  I wouldn't feel guilty about eating at breakfast, and something that would be hearty enough that I wouldn't be snacking by mid-morning. So, I didn't add any additional sugar, other than the topping. I figured the sweet potatoes being....sweet... especially having been canned in light syrup, would provide enough sweetness, not to mention the sweetness of the Quaker granola I used. For fat, often oil is used. I wanted to see if I could get around this though (why? I dunno, at least a little healthier?), and used 1/2 of an avocado instead.

Okay, I know, enough yacking already. Here is the resulting recipe:

1 1/3 cups flour
1/3 cups oats
1/2 cups Quaker granola
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 14 oz can sweet potatoes in light syrup, drained
enough milk to fill to 2 cups
1 egg
1/2 avocado
topping: granola and brown sugar

I first mixed together my dry ingredients (first 5). Then in a separate large measuring cup, I added my drained sweet potatoes and poured milk over top until I had 2 cups. I mixed this with my emersion blender until it was smooth, then added the avocado, mixed, and finally added the egg and mixed. I poured all of this over my dry ingredients, and mixed just until combined.

I scooped the mixture into my greased muffin tin (big muffin tin, makes 6 large much for the healthy part of this recipe... ;) ), topped them by sprinkling on a little brown sugar and granola, and baked at 375 F for about 30 minutes. I imagine this would be shorter if I used a regular muffin tin; the muffins are done when you put a toothpick in them and it comes out clean.

My muffins could actually have stayed in maybe another 5 minutes, but what can I say, I was hungry! I put my muffins on a cooling wrack immediately, and almost as immediately buttered one up to try them out.

What can I say, other than I am pleasantly surprised! I asked Casey to guess what kind of muffins they were, and his first guess was apple, brown sugar and cinnamon (or something like that). Not too far off I suppose? Either way, these muffins have feel-good flavor. I love the harvest-y flavors of the sweet potato, raisins from the granola, and cinnamon. The muffins themselves are not very sweet at all, but the brown sugar in the topping really helps to balance that out and provides just the right amount of flavor to satisfy my sweet tooth. Overall, I am really happy with the outcome, and am pleasantly surprised that the avocado swap for oil actually worked. Suffice it to say, I'm going to keep working with this recipe and see what other cool combos I can come up with!

Have any excellent muffin recipes to share? Or ingredients worth experimenting with? Let me know--I'd love to hear from you!

Until next time!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Salsa Fresca: Homemade Pico de Gallo

I love this time of the year! Not only because September happens to be my birthday month (and seriously, who doesn't love birthdays even if it does mean getting a little older??), and that September means the hottest days of the summer are (usually) behind us--giving way to refreshing subtle fall breezes and the changing of the leaves.... I do love September! But September is also a favorite month because of all the fresh garden veggies that are ready for picking and enjoying. There are few things better than going out back to the garden, picking some delicious tomatoes, jalapenos, and anaheims, and going back inside to make a tasty meal. We have been getting an abundance of these over the past few weeks (okay, okay, August is nice, too!), and our garden has been especially fruitful this year. Bear in mind that I have no green thumb. Usually I'm just happy to see a plant grow, let alone actually get produce from it. But this year has been great! The wee little anaheim pepper plant that we gently nudged into the ground back in May is now nearly five feet tall! Maybe this doesn't mean much to all you true gardeners out there, but it impresses me every time I see it.

Anyhow, with the exciting success of our garden this year, I have had an abundance of tomatoes and peppers. I've already frozen multiple quart-sized bags of tomatoes just because I couldn't keep up with the consumption (and harvesting has only just begun...). One of my favorite things to make this year (okay, one of Casey's favorite things to eat this year) has been fresh pico. Not knowing what "pico de gallo" actually translated to, I looked it up and found that it means "rooster's beak." Hmmmm....

So I'm going to call this quick little recipe "salsa fresca", for no other reason than I'm not sure I get poultry reference. ;)

Salsa Fresca

5 - 6 medium tomatoes, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 Jalapeno pepper, diced (I remove most of the seeds and pith--our jalapenos have been pretty hot)
1 cup assorted diced peppers (we have sweet banana and anaheim peppers growing, so I've been using these)
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
salt to taste

Once you've got everything chopped, all you need to do is add together all your ingredients, and you're good to go! So simple, I'm not sure it's even fair to call this a recipe, but that's our little secret.... This recipe has been tested at a recent gathering; no one even touched the store bought salsa with this around (take that, Pace!). I call that a keeper!

We love this recipe, and the freshness can't be beat! The quantities above are just estimates; if you want hotter salsa, go for an extra jalapeno; if you want to be crazy, try adding in some mango for sweetness. This is your rooster's beak, you make it how you want it! Also, keep in mind that as your salsa fresca sits and all those tasty flavors meld, the intensity of the salsa will increase. In other words, if you thought your salsa was hot on the first day, be careful if you have left overs on the next! But, this has never been a problem for us; I am only slightly embarrassed to say that we've never had any leftovers of this pico to worry about....

What are your favorite salsa fresca flavors? Any tips or ideas to amp up the recipe and make it turn a new leaf? Anyone out there know why fresh salsa is also called rooster's beak? I'd love to hear from you!

Until next time!