Tuesday, July 14, 2015

S'MORES CAKE




I grew up in a big, happy, family of 8 and am proud to see it swell now to 24. 13 wonderful adults and 11 happy cousins, not including the 6 fur babies. It's nearly impossible to get us all together at one time, let alone at my house. 

Sunday I had the pleasure and blessing of having all 24 in our home to celebrate my brother's family moving to Texas from the great state of Minnesota.  Unless you ask my Mom, who is mourning this bird leaving not just the nest, but the coop. We soothed her tears with a little humor:






It was also a birthday celebration, and the birthday boy requested a s'mores cake. I scoured the interweb for such a cake without luck. Instead, we decided to get a little creative with some of our favorite recipes that showcased classic s'mores flavors - chocolate, grahams, and marshmallow. 

This cake combination was crazy GOOD. So if you came here seeking S'mores Cake with spunk (and alliteration), look no further. 


S'MORES CAKE:

Make this Graham Cracker Crust. Bake it in a 10 inch spring form pan according to her directions under "if you are making a baked pie or dessert". Set aside.

Make this Beatty's Chocolate Cake batter. (NOT the frosting). Note: after you add the hot coffee, the batter will be reeaaalllly loose, but no fear! That's normal. Pour it over the baked graham cracker crust. Bake as instructed, until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool completely.

NOTE: I made the crust & cake one day, cooled it completely, and froze until party day. The morning of your event, pull it out of the freezer and place on a cake stand. When thawed (or completely cooled), frost your cake.

Make this Marshmallow Buttercream Frosting. Frost your cake. Be fancy if you have the tools, or use a butter-knife like I did. It all tastes the same :).  Put it into the fridge while you make the ganache.

Make this Chocolate Ganache. Pour over top of the marshmallow frosting and top with crumbled graham crackers. Place back into the fridge until your event.


We ate this bugger so fast and furious, that you only get to see a slice and a bite! See Minnesota?




"There are two gifts we should give our children. One is roots and the other is wings."

Chris and Jen, ya'll spread your wings now and enjoy your adventure!



Friday, June 26, 2015

Marco Island Smoothie




Our gym membership has been "on hold" for almost two years. I am all for fitness and taking care of oneself, however, I am not all about paying almost $200 a month for it. 

I went in a few months ago to break up with the gym. If you've ever tried to do this, it's nearly impossible. Just today, they had sales employees in from all over the country to attend training of which I am sure is in the art of not letting people quit. All it took was for one woman to wave a few free gym bucks in my face to use at the spa and BOOM, I'm still here. On hold, but still here.  

Really though, my hold dollars are put into an account so I can use them towards my hair appointments, which, they tell me, means I get to use the daycare and gym, ahem...pool, for the day. Sold. So today, not only did I get a much needed haircut, but we enjoyed an afternoon at the pool. And all because I can't say no.

But since the gym pool thinks it's Vegas and charges an arm and a leg for smoothies - we decided to make them at home instead. This one's a keeper. One declared Marco Island Smoothie because it makes us think of our Florida vacations. And because it was slurped down faster than pussycat.


Ingredients:
Makes 2 servings

1 medium over ripe banana (chill in fridge)
1 cup frozen pineapple chunks
1/2 cup light coconut milk (I used Trader Joes)
1/4 cup vanilla yogurt 
1 cup ice

Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Pour into glasses and top with whipped cream. 

Is it Friday? Are you 21? Go ahead and add two shots of good rum before you blend. You deserve it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

CHIPOLTE-ESQUE CHICKEN KABOB BOWLS




It's been a really long time, huh?  

I go through periods of time where cooking becomes SO.MUCH.WORK. I lose my flow and it feels like I've lost a limb. You see, food is my love language. It brings my people together and I get to see them open up, talk, and share space over the table. Or often around here, the island. That's love to me.

When I asked my boys what they want to put on their summer bucket list, at the top of my eldest son's was "more BBQ's with friends".  So Saturday night, we gathered the neighbors over for dinner. With a lack of flow, I knew I needed to take a low-key, no panic approach to feeding everyone. Solution? Taco bar!  What started out as a group of three families, quickly grew to five. It was a fishes and loaves miracle!  Neighbors got to know one another, feasted on tacos, nachos, and drinks, and made plans to do it again soon. 

Glancing in the fridge with that all too familiar feeling of meal despair, the leftovers spoke to me. Well, not ACTUALLY spoke but me, but enough that these easy, summery, chipolte-esque chicken kabob bowls were born.

Soon there was homemade ice cream, homemade chocolate cake, and numerous pizzas on the grill. 

Dare I say the flow has returned?!?


CHIPOLITE-ESQUE CHICKEN KABOBS
SERVES: 8

Start by cooking the cilantro-lime rice. While the rice cooks, cooks the beans and kabobs. 

(All directions below. Ingredients are listed in bold.)

INGREDIENTS:

CHICKEN & VEGGIE KABOBS:

16 skewers, soaked in water 30 minutes

2 lbs chicken breasts, diced into large chunks
1 cup sharp white cheddar, shredded
1 can diced green chilis

MARINADE:  

1/4 cup olive oil
juice of one lime 
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
4 cloves of garlic

  • Place all marinade ingredients into a blender or use immersion blender to puree.
  • Place diced chicken chunks into a gallon Ziploc back, pour marinade over top, seal the bag, and smoosh around to distribute the marinade evenly. Place in the fridge at least 4 hours or overnight.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Remove the chicken from the fridge and place evenly onto 8 skewers. Grill over medium-high heat until cooked through. 
  • Place on the cookie sheet, top with green chilies and shredded cheese.
  • Place in the preheated oven until the cheese is melted.

3 red bell peppers, diced into large chunks
3 red onions, diced into large chunks

  • While the cheese melts over the chicken kabobs, cook the veggie kabobs.
  • Place the veggies evenly onto the remaining 8 skewers. Cook on the grill over medium high heat until tender and have grill marks.


CILANTRO LIME RICE:

2 cups white rice
1 lime, zested (set zest aside), then cut in half 
1/2 cup packed cilantro, chopped

  • Place 4 cups of water into a large saucepan. Bring to a boil.
  • Add rice, zest, and juice the lime into the water. 
  • Bring back to a gentle simmer, cover and cook according to package instructions. 
  • Once rice is cooked, add chopped cilantro and fluff with a fork. Salt to taste.

CUMIN & GREEN CHILI BLACK BEANS:

2 can black beans
1 cup water
2 tbsp ground cumin (more or less to taste)
2 tsp chili powder (more or less to taste)
2 cans diced green chilies

  • Drain most of the liquid from the black beans and place beans into a small saucepan.
  • Add water, cumin, chili powder, and the can of diced green chilies. 
  • Bring to a simmer and simmer for 10-15 minutes to thicken a bit.

TO SERVE:
  • Place 1/2 - 3/4 cup of cilantro lime rice onto a plate.
  • Top with cumin & green chili black beans.
  • Place one chicken and one veggie kabob on top.
  • OPTIONAL: top with sour cream, salsa, and/or guacamole.





Monday, October 27, 2014

Lady of the Dead Cocktail | Casa Noble Crystal Tequila



Our house knows all about Halloween, but do you know about the three day fiesta called Day of the Dead?  It's a Mexican tradition and holiday observed on October 31 (All Hallows Eve), November 1 (All Saints Day), and November 2 (All Souls Day), as a way to remember and honor deceased family and friends. Families go to the graves of loved ones, decorate them, and celebrate by bringing their favorite foods, beverages, and marigolds, which are known as the flowers of the dead. The intent is to encourage the souls to visit.

Whether you celebrate Halloween, Day of the Dead, or both, Casa Noble Crystal Tequila is the perfect addition to your holiday cocktails. Casa Noble Crystal is a smooth and aromatic tequila, perfectly paired here in my 'Lady of the Dead' cocktail, complimenting the flavors of blood orange and blackberries in this frozen, blended drink.

'Lady of the Dead' Cocktail

Ingredients:
Cocktail
Blood Orange Sorbet - 1/2 cup
Casa Noble Crystal Tequila -  1 to 1 1/2 oz.
4-5 ice cubes (one handful)
club soda

Blackberry Syrup
1 pint blackberries
1/4 cup organic sugar
1/4 cup filtered water







TO MAKE THE BLACKBERRY SYRUP (2 WAYS):

Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Stir to dissolve. Add the blackberries, and simmer on low 20-25 minutes. Use a strainer to remove the pulp. Pour the mixture into a heat safe container, set aside to cool, then refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.  

OPTION: For a thicker, chunky blackberry syrup, sprinkle in a little cornstarch (not a lot!) when the mixture comes to a simmer. Cook as directed, but do not strain. Pour into a heat safe container, set aside to cool, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. (This way you can also use it as a jam, delish!) 

NOTE: Cool completely before adding to your frozen cocktail.






To make the cocktail, place the sorbet, tequila, and ice cubes into a blender. Pulse. Add a few splashes of club soda, and pulse again until smooth and pour-able. 

Pour into glass, and top with a blackberry syrup drizzle or dollop of chunky blackberry jam. Serve as is, or mix it up a bit and give is a little stir.








CASA NOBLE CRYSTAL TEQUILA

Tasting Notes:

Key Note:
Well-balanced smooth tequila with aromas and flavors of raw and buttery sweet cooked agave,
mango, and a hint of citrus for a long finish.

Color:
Crystal clear with brilliant hues of straw and silver.

Nose:
Complex aromas of raw and cooked agave with notes of citrus, mango and pepper.

Palate:
Buttery, sweet agave and spices are soft and elegant on the palate as they are complemented by a
hint of citrus. The well-balanced finish is clean, smooth and silky.

Proof:
40% Alcohol by Volume








Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Que Sera, Sera



Happy Autumn to you. It's the beginning of the most wonderful time of the year, isn't it?

This summer was very special to me. Having transitioned out of a part time position at our church in the end of May, I found a new joy in being home with my boys. We were more adventurous and spontaneous, which is always more fun. 

Inevitably, September came and the boys returned to school. I have been waiting 10 years for the elementary school empty nest, but the day they all boarded the bus together, I felt an unexpected kind of sadness. Just the week before, we had rented a paddle boat.  The boys practiced their cannonballs, fully clothed and life-jacketed, smiles wide. But watching all three board that bus, I suddenly felt like the littlest brother who was left behind, not yet old enough to head to school. 

I didn't feel that way for long, because you know, there was a plan already set for me. I always try to listen to intuition, and this time it led me to sign up for lunch room helper during the first week of school. It was during my first shift that I learned of a staff vacancy, a position not listed a month ago when I submitted my application to the district with the mentality of what will be, will be. I was thrilled to be hired by the end of the week.

My intuition has never let me down. Life isn't about coincidences, it's about paths and whether or not we see them, or trust our intuition to take them. Not long ago, I expected seven scary unstructured hours, alone. Instead am enjoying purposeful days that allow me to contribute both to my family and take better care of myself.

It's been two weeks now and I am in a routine. I am more focused than I've ever been at home and have more energy when my boys return from school each day. I am back to cooking, baking, and homemaking, all of which suit me well and bring me great joy.  The empty nest is now a path I am thankful to be on.


The future's not ours to see.
Whatever will be, will be.