Friday, February 24, 2012

Trying New Things

I'm never opposed to trying new things in the food realm, but it is easy to just use what you know.  Do you ever feel stuck in a cooking rut?  I typically buy my old favorites when shopping for produce. Case in point, kale. It's one of those things I had never tried until recently.  I'm kind of bummed that I'm just now discovering how delicious it can be.  It's also super convenient because of how hearty the leaves are.  It's not like spinach or lettuce in that it won't wilt if you dress your salad then store it for a couple of days.  As a matter of fact, it even gets tastier! The first time I tried it I made Kale Chips.  The hubs and I both liked them, but they didn't knock our socks off by any means.  I was actually a little disappointed because I had been hearing about how delicious they are.  Fast forward a few weeks and my class had a tasting day during their weekly Global Gardens class. Kale was one of the items they had been growing so the teacher brought some in and we got to talking about it.  I told her about my kale chip experience and she shared this salad recipe with me.  I'm so glad she did, now I can whole heartedly say I love kale!  If you've never tried it, hopefully I can inspire you to try something new.  Skip the chips and go for the salad (this coming from the girl who usually would do the opposite, just ask my jeans!)

Kale Salad with Apricots, Avocado, and Parmesan
Serves one
6-8 ounces of kale 
6-8 dried apricots
1/3 or so cup cooked beans *I used chick peas
1/4 or so cup almonds
8-10 flakes of Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 avocado
salt and pepper

Fold the pieces of kale in half lengthwise and use your fingers to tear out the tough inner stem.  Tear all the leaves into bite-sized pieces and put them in a medium-sized mixing bowl.

Cut the apricots into little bits and add them to the bowl with the kale, along with the beans, the almonds, and the cheese. Whisk together the oil and vinegar and pour the vinaigrette and a healthy pinch of salt over the salad and use your fingers to toss and rub everything together.  Just before eating, slice the avocado into cubes and spoon them over the salad.

This recipe can be really flexible too, use any beans you love and whatever nuts you have in the house.  I acutally mixed up a bigger batch and it kept really nicely in the fridge for a couple of days.

*On a side note, if you aren't familiar with Global Gardens, here's a little intro from their website:
Global Gardens is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering students and communities through hands on-science education. We believe helping students create a garden is a way to not only assist them in learning about science, health and the environment but also challenge them to become caring, forward thinking and confident individuals. Global Gardens is committed to planting seeds of change!
Our school is very fortunate to participate in Global Gardens and have gardens on our campus.  My class' garden is a Pizza Garden where they planned for, built and take care of all kinds of herbs and veggies that go on a pizza. Their garden is even round and divided into "slices".

Monday, February 13, 2012

Boys, Boys, Boys

Let me preface this by saying, I've never been that girl.  The one with a perpetual crush on the "flavor of the month" it boy. Until recently. I guess I'm just a late bloomer.

Adam Levine; the smirk, that voice, those tattoos...
Blake Shelton, bonus that you can get 2 for 1 if you watch the Voice.  Adam and Blake are both so funny on that show, I love their bantering back and forth.
Channing Tatum, he's new to the list since seeing The Vow.  This may be a fleeting thing, because he's really never caught my eye before.  Too beefcake for me, but the movie is so sweet! 
Ryan Gosling. The Notebook.  That is all.
And rounding out my Top 5 is this dude...
I saved the very best for last. 
I am so lucky to spend every day of my life with my real life crush.  We should all be so lucky.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Spreading the Love

I made these devilishly decadent brownies over the weekend.  They are so delicious that I  had to get them out of my line of vision decided to share some with my sweet friends at work.  The recipe is perfect for a Valentine's Day treat, they are fudgy and rich and the dried cherries make them a little bit festive. 
If you feel like spreading a little love, you can find the recipe here on my Pinterest board.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Some Like it HOT (but maybe not this hot)

This time of year I just love a steaming bowl of chili or soup.  However, around these parts it really doesn't feel typical for this time of year at all.  I'm beginning to wonder if we will ever have a winter.  I'm pretty much the only person I know that is complaining, but I'm sorry, I love winter.  I decided that even if the weather won't cooperate, I better get to making some soup.  I love to cook up a big ol' pot of yumminess and then have it for leftovers and lunches for the week.  Being a teacher, I bring my lunch to school every day.  There isn't time to run get lunch, and the cafeteria food just ain't an option for this girl.  One of my co-workers actually had this soup for lunch one day last week and she shared the recipe with me.  It's a take on tortilla soup, but it's a little different that what I have done before.  I modified her recipe quite a bit because a) we like things a bit spicier than what I thought the original might be and b) I wanted to make a larger batch than what she did.  With those points in mind I just got to thinking about what I needed to do to make them happen.  I'm sure her recipe would be equally delicious, so if you like things less spicy use the original or make your own modifications.

Original recipe as made by my friend:
1 lb. ground beef or chicken
1 small onion, diced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can Rotel tomatoes
1 can pinto beans (drained and rinsed)
1 can corn (drained) *I left out the corn
8 oz Velveeta cheese
Brown the meat and onion (if you are using beef), add the tomatoes, beans, and corn.  If you like things "soupier" you could add some water of broth.  Bring to a simmer then stir in the cheese.

I used chicken, so I just cooked 2 chicken breasts and shredded them before starting the soup.  I added the onions right into the pot with the tomatoes and cooked chicken.  Here's where I may have gotten carried away...I also added a jalapeno pepper, and the pinto beans I used were actually HOT chili beans. I actually used 2 cans each of the beans and diced tomatoes (only 1 can of Rotel though).  Since my beans were the hot chili variety, I didn't rinse them, 'cause, duh...I'd have rinsed off all the good stuff. Suffice it to say that upon sampling, this stuff lit me on fire.  I'm guessing the pepper I used, was extra spicy.  So, I set about trying to salvage my soup.  I ended up using about 3/4 c. of sour cream to kind of "cool" the burn.  Here's the thing though, never stir sour cream directly into a hot pot of soup.  Otherwise it just kind of separates and looks yucky.  I took some of the hot soup and stirred it into the sour cream them added that mixture to the pot.  The final product was really good, but I would say in all of my concern about making the soup spicy, I did go overboard.  We were out of tortilla chips, but did have a bag of Fritos (because I've been waiting on the dang cold weather so I could make chili). I recommend going the Frito route, who knew?!