Fresh Avocado & Cucumber Salad

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Awhile back I shared one of my favorite lunches, this Couscous Salad. It’s pretty easy to make, pretty healthy, and pretty delicious. In that post, I talked about how I find lunch very uninspiring. I still do. I love going out to lunch though… why is it that a sandwich, soup, or salad at a restaurant is so much better than the exact same dish you made at home? Is that just me??

Maybe it’s because I don’t eat a wide variety of lunches. There’s only so many things that are portable and easily eaten on a brief lunch break. This salad is one of my go-tos. It takes about 5 minutes to make, so you can throw it together the night before. It’s healthy, with very simple ingredients. And since the whole avocado is in there, it’s filling enough to last you through the afternoon.

I like to use the small pickling cucumbers in this salad because I don’t think they leech as much water and stay more crisp in the fridge. You obviously can use a regular cucumber if you’d like. I usually make a double or triple batch at eat it all week. I kept this recipe small, because when it sits in the fridge for a day or two, the avocado gets brown and less pretty. I don’t mind this because it still tastes good despite its appearance, but I don’t want you people to make a big batch and be sad a few days later.

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Fresh Avocado & Cucumber Salad

Ingredients: 
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 pickling cucumbers
  • Juice from ~2/3s of a lime
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 4 turns of fresh ground black pepper
  • A pinch or two of Kosher salt, to taste
Instructions:
  1. Slice the cucumbers and cut the avocado into chunks.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Stir to combine.
  3. Refrigerate until serving.

Simple Green Crema

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In mental preparation for a dinner of Baked Jerk Chicken Wings, I knew I needed a cooling contrast to those fiery-hot wings. I mentally tossed around a few ideas while perusing Pinterest. When I came across this blog and recipe while Pinteresting, I knew I found the perfect accompaniment! It was, and since we’ve been using the crema for all sorts of different dishes. It is incredibly versatile. Not only have we topped the chicken wings with it, but also a nice spice-rubbed steak. It works well as a sauce spread inside of a wrap with just about any protein and vegetable (our easy, go-to weeknight dinner). Try it as a dip for crudites, spread on a cracker, or as an alternative to your boring ketchup next time you have potatoes wedges. The possibilities are endless 😉

Simple Green Crema

(Adapted from this recipe at Turning Clock Back)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/4 cup Mexican table cream*
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Pinch of salt & pepper
*Many standard grocery store chains carry crema or Mexican table cream these days – usually in the cheese section or by the sour cream. If not, it can be found in a Mexican grocery, or substituted with sour cream.
Instructions: 
  1. Wait for it, this is super complex.
  2. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor. Blend.
  3. Chill before serving.

Baked Jerk Chicken Wings

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So here’s what I did for this recipe. I just made it up. Do not look here for authentic ratios of spices in a jerk spice blend. If you have Jamaican friends, send them the other direction – away from my inauthentic blog post! But if you’re not super-concerned about authenticity and want to test out some spicy hot baked wings… check out this recipe. I kept the wings whole and intact (mostly out of sheer laziness), but for more pieces and a more traditional wing look you can certainly portion them! A lot of time you can find them portioned in the store too. Here’s a nice breakdown on the chicken wing from The Kitchn. PS: The Kitchn is a great site for everything from recipes and how-tos to all sorts of tips & tricks of the trade.

Also, I am not joking about the spice level. Selim, who when asked in Indian or Thai restaurants for his preferred spice level answers, “However you would make it at home,” even thought these were spicy. I am way wimpier when it comes to spice, but I battled through. You can taste the other spices and even a hint of sweetness from the brown sugar despite the heat. It also helped that we paired this with cool and tangy Green Crema to keep our tongues from burning off. If you don’t want quite the five-alarm spice level, try cutting back on the crushed red pepper flakes in the recipe.

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Baked Jerk Chicken Wings

Ingredients: 
  • 3lbs of chicken wings
  • 2 tbsp neutral oil
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Instructions: 
  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Combine all of the spices in a small bowl or ramekin.
  3. Toss wings with oil in a large bowl.
  4. Sprinkle spice mixture over wings, tossing until all are well-coated.
  5. Spread wings out on a foil-lined cookie sheet, skin side up.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes and then flip to the other side. Bake 20 more minutes.
  7. After the full 40 minutes, return the wings to the original side up. Turn the heat up to broil. Broil for just a minute or two, watching closely, so the skin crisps up. Areas of thick spice coverage may blacken a bit, which is fine, but don’t let the skin burn!

 

 

Esquites Americano

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Have you heard of elote, the beloved Mexican street food? Mexican street vendors sell you a char-grilled cob of corn, slathered with crema or mayonnaise or sour cream, cilantro, chili powder, cheese, lime juice, and maybe a few other ingredients. People rave about it! I’ve never had it, mostly because I haven’t spent much time in Mexico, and also because I don’t live in a big city with tons of street vendors. Also… because I haven’t ever been able to wrap my head around mayonnaise on my corn on the cob. I’m sure it’s amazing, because everyone says it’s amazing, but I haven’t quite made that mental leap yet.

But here’s the thing. Turns out, Mexicans also make a delicious dish called esquites, which as best I can tell, is basically elote in a bowl. For some reason, combining all those exact same ingredients in a bowl makes way more sense to my crazy brain. So I thought I’d dip my toe in and try esquites, hopefully as a gateway. My concoction is adapted from this one. We call our version Esquites Americano, solely based on the addition of the American favorite – bacon. We ate this as a dip with tortilla chips, but it works as a side as well. It’s as delicious as people say!

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Esquites Americano

(Adapated from Serious Eats)
Ingredients: 
  • 2 strips of bacon, chopped into small lardons
  • 4 ears of corn
  • 1 jalapeño, finely diced
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp ancho chili powder
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 3oz cojito (or feta) cheese
Instructions: 
  1. Place the bacon in a large pan, over medium heat. Cook until the bacon is crispy, and then remove to the side.
  2. Remove corns from its ears. Add the corn, jalapeño, and garlic to the pan. Increase heat slightly to medium-high. Stir to coat in the bacon fat.
  3. Cook, stirring every 2 minutes, until corn begins to brown.
  4. Combine ingredients from the pan in a large bowl with the cilantro, ancho chili powder, lime juice, and mayonnaise. Stir to combine well.
  5. Refrigerate until dip has sufficiently cooled.
  6. Then add cheese, crumbled or roughly chopped to the dish. Stir and enjoy!
Serves 4. I would double or triple if using as a party appetizer.

Balsamic Basil Blackberry Pizza

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You’ve heard of fruit pizzas right? They’re shaped liked pizzas, but that’s really where the similarities end. To the best of my knowledge, fruit pizzas are essentially entirely sweet, with a base more like cookie dough, topped with fruits and sugar. You eat them for dessert, not dinner. That is not what we’re doing here tonight. This blackberry pizza is mostly savory, with the addition of the sweet and tangy blackberries.

How did I come up with this crazy idea? I didn’t. This was a Pinterest find, from a blog called A Whisk and Two Wands. The pictures caught my eye – gorgeous contrast of the dark berries and white cheese! Furthermore, Selim loves pizza, we’re trying to eat more fruit, we had blackberries and basil in the fridge, and I had the time to make some dough today. All good reasons to give this unique idea a whirl tonight!

We really enjoyed this as an alternative to a “normal” pizza for dinner tonight. However, I think it would really be perfect as an appetizer in smaller portions for your next dinner party!

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Balsamic Basil Blackberry Pizza

(Adapted from A Whisk and Two Wands blog)
Ingredients:
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup hot water, divided
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Olive oil
  • 12oz blackberries
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 8 turns of fresh ground black pepper
  • Just a pinch of salt
  • 10 large leaves of fresh basil, roughly chopped, reserving 2-3 leaves
  • 16oz log of mozzarella
Instructions: 
  1. First, prepare the dough. (You also could skip this step entirely and buy prepared pizza dough.) In a small bowl, stir together the yeast, sugar, and 1/4 cup of warm water. Let sit for ~10 minutes until frothy.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Pour the yeast mixture over-top. Add the remaining water slowly, stopping and stirring frequently. Mix with a spoon in the bowl until you have a well-combined ball of dough. (You may need slightly more or slightly less water to form a nice ball of dough. If it ends up too wet – add additional flour.)
  3. Then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured, clean, dry counter-top. Knead the dough for 10+ minutes. The dough should be firm and elastic.
  4. Pour just a tiny bit of olive oil onto a paper towel and swipe around the bottom and side of a large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and cover with a damp towel. Allow to sit for 1 hour or until dough has doubled in size.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the blackberry sauce. Pour blackberries into a saucepan over low-medium heat. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, pepper, and chopped fresh basil. Cover and cook for ~5 minutes so the berries soften.
  6. Uncover and mash the blackberries with your stirring spoon or the back of a fork.
  7. Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens. This should take ~10 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  9. Once dough has risen, turn it out on a lightly flowered surface. Divide in half. Roll out the dough into two large circles.
  10. Bake the pizza dough without topping for 5 minutes and then remove from the oven.
  11. Spoon the blackberry sauce onto the dough as you would a normal pizza, leaving a bit of the edge uncovered for a crust.
  12. Slice mozzarella and place chunks all over the pizza. (May not use the whole 16oz log of mozzarella.)
  13. Bake for an additional 8-10 minutes, watching the edges of the crusts to make sure it’s not over-browning.
  14. Top with the remaining fresh basil before serving.

Spiced Blueberry Pie

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So confession. We’re not really the big Valentine’s Day types. I feel like I’m a middle-of-the-road kind of girl when it comes to this. I don’t hate Valentine’s Day or go on long rants against the commercialism of the day. But I also don’t really love or expect a dozen red roses with a heart-shaped box of chocolates. No offense to those who fall in either camp! To each their own…

But the moral of my story is that I wanted my sweet-tooth husband to have a Valentine’s Day treat, without falling into a cliché. I preferred to make him something myself, so here we are! (Don’t judge me that it’s in fact two days after Valentine’s Day… We’ve been on opposite schedules – him working long days and me working nights.)

If you’re running late on your Valentine’s Day celebration, or maybe doing something smart like waiting for the weekend, here’s your alternative to a box of chocolates for your sweetheart (or Galentine’s Day girl’s night). This blueberry pie is a lot easier than I expected it to be. Pies intimidate me! (And all desserts, for that matter. I think I’ve mentioned that once or twice.) The dough was super-easy to make and the filling was just a matter of stirring a few times. This recipe was based on one in the mouth-watering cookbook Pie Love. Mine isn’t quite as pretty as the ones in those cookbook photos, but we’re here for the taste right? Tasty > pretty. Plus, I think this is the first pie I’ve ever made. I’ll perfect the prettiness maybe by the 50th.

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Spiced Blueberry Pie

(Recipe adapted from the cookbook, Pie Love)
Ingredients: 
Piecrust:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 10 tbsp cold, unsalted butter
  • Ice water (6-8 tbsp)
Filling:
  • 5 cups blueberries
  • 2/3 cup Grade A maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • Additional brown sugar for sprinkling
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  2. To prepare the dough, initially place the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir together.
  3. Add the butter in small pats. Turn on the stand mixer and mix until the ingredients begin to form crumbs.
  4. Add the water, tablespoon at a time, while the mixer remains on. Continue until the dough comes together and begins to form a ball.
  5. Turn the ball of dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Separate into two different sections, roughly 1/3 and 2/3 of the original ball.
  6. Take the 2/3s ball and roll it out into a round piece of dough, approximately 12 inches in diameter and 1/8th of an inch thick. Fit this piece of dough into a greased 9-10 inch pie pan.
  7. Chill the pie pan and the additional ball of dough (wrapped in plastic) in the refrigerator while preparing the filling.
  8. Rinse your blueberries and drain.
  9. Place berries and maple syrup in a large pan. Turn heat on to medium. Stir in the spices, and salt. Add the butter in pats. As the butter is melting, slowly stir in the flour. Ensure it is well combined.
  10. Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring nearly continuously. The mixture should slowly bubble and begin to thicken.
  11. While the filling is cooking, remove the pie pan from the refrigerator and bake for 5 minutes.
  12. Roll out the remaining piece of pie dough and slice into long strips.
  13. Pour the blueberry mixture into the piecrust.
  14. Top with the long strips of dough. {Try to do it better than I did ;)}
  15. Whisk together the egg and the vanilla. Brush over top of the pie.
  16. Sprinkle additional sugar over the top.
  17. Bake for 30 minutes. You should be able to see the filling bubbling.
  18. Allow to sit out for an hour prior to slicing and serving.

Roasted Tex-Mex Chicken

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I know what you’re thinking… “oh great, another easy roasted chicken recipe, how original.”  What it lacks in originality, it definitely makes up for with flavor.  If you want more spice, through in some cayenne or your favorite hot sauce (Sriracha, Tabasco, Frank’s Red Hot, etc) or try adding some Kalamata olives (mmm… umami!) for a little twist.  As always, save those bones to make a great stock in the future, you can freeze them for later.  I know this is short, but I’m exhausted, my cardiac rotation is kicking my butt.  Side-note: we’re open to renaming this chicken recipe as it’s probably not exactly Tex-Mex, and we’re not exactly the most imaginative recipe-namers. Leave us a creative name in the comments!

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Roasted Tex-Mex Chicken

Ingredients: 
  • 2 lbs of bone-in, skinless chicken portions
  • 8 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 Roma tomato, crushed
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded & minced
  • 1 tbsp coriander
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp chipotle powder
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tsp salt + additional to taste
  • Juice of 1/2 of a lime
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Place the chicken portions into a glass baking dish.
  3. Mix together all of the rest of the ingredients. Pour over top of the chicken.
  4. Bake the dish for ~1 1/2 hours. Confirm internal temperature of 165 degrees as per the FDA 🙂
  5. Serve over rice or similar.