Tuesday, June 26, 2012

On the lighter side (Part II) Turkey Taco Filling

I will be leaving a very quick note today.  It is late and the pillow is calling my name.  I have been waking up around a quarter to six for the past month only to find my sleepy self driving to the gym.  I have finally seen results, a little thinner in the waist, pants with a tad bit more room in them and feeling stronger.  That is what I notice the most-the strength in my bones finally breaking free of its slumber.

Turkey Taco Filling
This taco filling is quick, simple and really good.  My parents really liked these tacos-and to their surprise, they were turkey-not beef.  I'm always happy to introduce a lighter alternative to a family favorite.

1 pound ground turkey 85/15
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 t. ground cumin
2 t. chili powder
1/4 t. ancho chili powder
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c. fat-free fire-roasted salsa verde
salt & pepper
  1. Saute onion in olive oil.  Add ground turkey, breaking up the meat into crumbles.  Add cumin, chili powders and garlic.  Saute for 2 minutes.
  2. Add salsa and simmer until mixture has thickened.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Serve in taco shells or tortillas with assorted toppings.

Monday, June 25, 2012

On The Lighter Side: A Tale Of Two Salads

My parents came to visit us last week.  They had been traveling for weeks; driving to Nebraska to visit my Nanny, making their way back to Texas through a snip of Iowa, down through Missouri, stopping in Branson and keeping south through Arkansas until home.  They were only home long enough to launder their clothes and then drove the four hours to our home.  I could only imagine how hard it was to find a light summery meal on the road.

They arrived at my house Father's Day evening and upon the Hub's request we ate Pot Roast & Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes.  Dessert was my husbands (and my) favorite pound cake topped with freshly whipped cream, raspberries & blueberries.  It was a delicious Father's Day meal-but not so light and really not so summery (except for the dessert).

The next day I finally treated my parents to something lighter and a bit more refreshing.  For lunch I decided to make salads alongside a platter of fruit.  I love summer meals like that.  It just seems fitting to eat something simple and cold while the sun is firing up the earth and the heat creates a heft in the air.  Geez, its hot out there.

Broccoli Slaw is something that I had found here & here, so you know its got to be good...and it is.  I seriously can eat all of this slaw in one sitting.  There is a bit of sweetness from the added sugar, tartness from the cranberries, bite from the vinegar and crunch from the broccoli and almonds.  It is seriously addicting and my favorite summer salad.
Quinoa, Corn & Scallion Salad is a different kind of salad.  It takes a special person to like quinoa, I think.  But I wanted to introduce it to my parents and showcase a new food that makes a good & healthy salad.  Quinoa is not a grain, but rather a seed and is closely related to the beet and spinach family.  It is high in protein, a good source in dietary fiber and is gluten-free.  The dressing is tart and the corn gives the salad a sweet crunch.  If you haven't tried quinoa, try it...you may like it.  The recipe can be found here.

Broccoli Slaw
serves:  4-6 servings
This recipe is slightly adapted from Under The Highchair, who slightly adapted their version from Smitten Kitchen.

3 crowns of broccoli
3/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
3/4 cup cranberries

Buttermilk Dressing
1/2 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons shallots, minced

  1. Trim broccoli from stalks.  Slice broccoli into 1/4 inch slices or hand chop into small pieces.  Add broccoli, cranberries and almonds into a bowl and toss together.  
  2. In a smaller bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients together.  Season it with salt & pepper.  Pour the dressing over the broccoli mixture and toss well.  Reseason with salt & pepper if needed.

Monday, June 11, 2012

What would Don Draper do....

if he lived in the Hill Country of Texas during the heat of the summer???

I think he'd be ordering up Daiquiris & Margaritas instead of Old Fashions & Martinis.

This is a perfect summer cocktail.  It is bright, refreshing, not too sweet and has plenty of lime flavor.  I don't drink alcohol very often, but I really enjoyed watching the Mad Men season finale while sipping this tasty drink.

Watermelon Daiquiri
Adapted from Sunset Magazine (a new fave!)
serves 2
2 cups watermelon, cubed
3 teaspoons sugar
6 tablespoons golden rum
1/4 cup lime juice
Zest from half a lime
  1. Puree watermelon in a food processor and strain into a small mixing bowl.   Add sugar, rum, lime juice and zest.  Stir mixture.
  2. Pour into a cocktail shaker and fill with ice.  Cover, shake and strain into 2 glasses.
  3. Garnish with a watermelon slice.
***Note:  I do not have a cocktail shaker so this is what I did.  I pureed the watermelon in my Magic Bullet.  Strained it into a 2 cup Pyrex cup and added the rest of the ingredients.  Then placed the mixture back into the rinsed out bullet, filled it with ice, placed a screw lid on and shook until the bullet got cold.  Cracked open the screw lid and strained into glasses.  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Strawberry Syrup+Milk=LOVE (Strawberry Milk)

Homemade Strawberry Milk
I have actually been enjoying the start of summer even though I usually squirm the second the mercury begins to rise.  Baking Tot has been shouting "It's summertime!" for months now and finally it has arrived.  Memorial Day weekend  made summertime official as our neighborhood pools opened their doors.
A busy morning
We have been enjoying sweet watermelon, berries and white fleshed peaches from a neighbor's tree.  Our jalapenos & tomatoes are coming along nicely and we've been plucking herbs on occasion from our tiny "garden".  Every night we go on a sprinkler hunt and use our eyes & ears to find a neighbor watering their lawn.  Once found, we rush through the water once or twice and then go on to venture the blocks that lay ahead.
Feeding the ducks at our neighborhood pond
And I can't forget to mention our cool treats.  Frozen yogurt pops, smoothies, lemon popsicles & our new favorite-strawberry milk.  I love Promise Land Dairy's flavored milk and had the wild idea of making my own version of their strawberry milk.  I took a few over ripe strawberries from the fridge and made a simple strawberry syrup and swirled it right into milk.  Strawberry syrup+milk=LOVE.

Strawberry Milk
3-4 servings
1 cup strawberries, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
  1. Place strawberries, sugar & water into a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Boil for 10 minutes until it reduces and thickens slightly.  Strain the liquid syrup into a small bowl, set strawberries aside and reserve for another use.  Let strawberry syrup cool.
  2. Add 3 tablespoons syrup to 3/4 cup milk and stir to combine.
  3. Voila!  Drink Up!
Leftover syrup and /or reserved strawberries can be used as a topping for yogurt, ice cream, pancakes, etc.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Cake Pops-Tutorial

If you only knew how simple these were.  I had never made cake pops before but have heard all the talk about them lately.  And now since I've made them I know why people are raving about them.  They are simple to make and delicious (like addiction forming delicious).  One thing though is you need to set time aside to make them and maybe have a tad bit of patience.  My youngest sister helped me make 3 dozen of these beauties for my younger sister's baby shower.  Once we got an assembly line formed it moved nicely.
What you need:
  • One box of cake mix
  • One container of ready-made frosting (not whipped)
  • 2-3 lbs. of candy coating/melts/bark/wafers (found in the baking aisle of your local craft store)
  • Lollipop Sticks
  • Decorative Sprinkles, Balls, Candies, etc.
  • Syrofoam block
1.  Bake a 9x13 cake according to instructions on cake box.  Let cool completely.  Can be done the day before and covered tightly overnight. 
2.  Make cake crumbs.  The easiest and most efficient way to do this is to cut cake into quarters.  Place two of the quarters in your hands and rub them together over a large bowl.  Repeat with the other two quarters.  Instant crumbles!  Go through the crumbled cake and make sure every bit is finely crumbled. ***Note:  For light colored cakes, trim off any brown edges to achieve the same color cake throughout cake pop and get rid of unattractive brown bits.

3.  Add Frosting.  The ratio I used was a scant 3/4 container frosting to 1-9x13 boxed cake.  Start out by adding 1/2 of the container of frosting to the crumbled cake and mix together with a large spoon.  Add a few more dollops until the mixture can form a ball and hold its shape.  Make sure it isn't too moist or it will not stay on the stick! 
4.  Start Rolling!  For consistency in size, use a cookie scoop and roll cake mixture into balls.  Set on a waxed or parchment lined cookie sheet. Refrigerate for two hours until firm. 
5.  Place Candy Melts into a microwave safe plastic bowl and melt in the microwave.  Make sure microwave setting is at 50% and melt in 30 second intervals, stirring between times.  Once the candy has melted, now you can dip. Pull four cold cake balls out of the refrigerator.  Dip 1/4 inch of the lollipop stick into the melted candy.  Insert stick into the bottom of the cake ball, making sure you only insert it to the middle of the ball.  Dip cake ball into the candy coating making sure it is covered completely.  The tiniest hole in the coating can cause the cake pop to crack once it hardens.  You can use a toothpick to cover any holes.  Place in Styrofoam blocks to dry upright.
6.  Decorate!  Sprinkle on candies.  Melt some more candy & drizzle the top of the pops!  And now enjoy & eat them!

source:  Cake Pops by:  Bakerella