30 June 2011

Watermelon Margaritas

One of my favorite things about summer (besides an excuse to make homemade ice cream, lazing around in the warm sun, and imbibing umbrella drinks) is the availability of so much wonderful fresh fruit.  Watermelon is one of our favorites.  You just can't beat the sticky, juicy, mess it makes running down a toddler's face. 

Or your own, for that matter.

The problem at our house is, it's just my husband, me, and a 4-year old who can somehow sustain full-steam, wild and crazy energy on three grapes and half a hot dog.  So when we came home from Sam's Club last weekend with a 20-pound watermelon (only a slight exaggeration), I knew I needed some additional ways to use this sucker up.

How can a person go wrong with fresh fruit margaritas?  What's even better about this recipe is that it's incredibly low in calories.  And, if you substitute diet lemon-lime soda for a non-alcoholic version, you might even be in the negative.  :-)

Watermelon Margaritas

  • 3 tablespoons sugar, separated
  • 3 1/2 cups watermelon
  • 1/2 cup tequila (or lemon-lime soda)
  • 1 tablespoon triple-sec, or other orange liqueur
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • ice cubes
Preparation Instructions

Rub a lime around the rim of your drinking glasses, then dip in sugar.

In the jar of your blender, combine 2 tablespoons sugar and remaining ingredients.  Process until smooth, then add ice cubes and crush until desired consistency is reached. 

Garnish with slices of lime or melon balls.

29 June 2011

(Semi) Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

Not long ago, one of my good friends jokingly told me a story about how excited her kids were when she made a cake “from scratch”—a box cake mix.  I have many good memories of my own mother in the kitchen, making birthday cakes and other special treats (yes, from scratch), having dinner ready when we got home from school and work, and making it seem effortless.

But times have changed.  And try as I might, I am not my mother.

Running a household is not effortless to me.  I’m tired most days.  Cranky.  Stressed--thinking about work when I am at home, and thinking about home when I am at work.  Wondering when I’ll get the laundry done, the juice cleaned up from the kitchen floor, and if I’ll ever have time again to sit down and watch an episode of Criminal Minds (in peace).

So in this hustle-bustle life we live, sometimes it’s just easier to buy the ready-made cakes and cookies and whatnot to send with the kids to school.  There are more important things in life than spending hours in the kitchen after getting home from an 8-hour workday.  I’m already missing my Doodle for 40-plus hours a week; the last thing I want to do is give up more play time with him to spend in the kitchen.  These moments are too precious.

However, we do still have to eat, and I try to make wholesome meals using as many shortcuts as I can.  I want my son to grow up knowing that “real” food doesn’t come from the Taco Bell drive through or in combination with a Hamburger Helper box (though believe me, I’ve eaten plenty of it in my day).  I want to make real stuff that we actually want to eat. Good stuff that our body needs.  Without slaving in the kitchen for hours.

Spaghetti is a staple in our house.  It’s economical, filling, and oh-yeah...thumbs-up approved by our (almost) 4-year old.  And while it is so easy to warm up a jar of Ragu, I can make my own sauce in almost the same amount of time, while adding in a few extra veggies for good measure.  Moms have to be sneaky, and often.
3 - 4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/4 cup chopped carrots chopped
1/4 - 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
8 ounce can tomato sauce
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic poser
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of baking soda (to help neutralize the acid)
While the water for your pasta is boiling, slice up your veggies.   Sauté until tender. Add remaining ingredients, and stir to combine.  Add cooked meatballs or Italian sausage.  Bring to a simmer, and cook uncovered about 25-30 minutes.

28 June 2011

Red, White and Blue Salad

What can I say, I looooove salads this time of year.  I don't know about you, though, but I get awfully bored with the same old iceberg lettuce, cucumber, carrots and tomatoes.  Bleck, who wants to eat that??

Coincidentally, in the summer, I always have huge containers of fresh berries in my fridge.  And while I do my best to eat as much fruit as I can during the week, I'm always looking for various ways to use up my berries by the end of the week.  This has become my new, favorite, summer salad.  It's crisp and cool, and not your same old run-of-the-mill mixed salad.  Add some grilled chicken to this, and you've got a meal.

Start by toasting some pecans on the stove top.  Almonds would also be yummy!  Melt some butter over low heat and add your chopped nuts.  Sprinkle with a little brown sugar and cook until lightly toasted.  Remove from heat and place on a paper towel to cool.

Meanwhile, thinly slice your cucumber and strawberries.  Mix with fresh spinach leaves, and toss with blueberries and freshly sliced parmesan cheese.  Drizzle with a berry viniagrette dressing.

Berry Viniagrette

In your blender, mix together:
  • 1/4 cup fresh fruit spread (I used blackberry, since that's what I had on-hand, but blueberry or strawberry would work great, also);
  • 1/4 cup chopped onions
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Process until smooth.  With blender running, slowly add in 2/3 cup of vegetable oil.  Refrigerate up to 2 weeks.

27 June 2011

Rosemary-Parmesan Steak Fries

While I often hear a small voice in the back of my head calling, "Danger! Danger Will Robinson!" as I consider shoving my son's leftover McDonald's french fries into my mouth (while no one is watching, of course), this recipe really isn't all that unhealthy.  There's still salt, of course, but I tell myself that's offset by using the whole potato (skins and all) and olive oil rather than deep-frying.

Rosemary-Parmesan Steak Fries

1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 and slice 4 medium potatoes into 8 slices each.

Mix ingredients through the garlic with 2 Tbsp olive oil, and add potatoes.  Toss to coat.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.  Using foil makes for super easy clean-up later, and what can I say, I'm lazy.  Also, the foil really helps your potatoes cook more evenly.

Spread your potatoes evenly on the foil, and bake for approximately 40 minutes.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, and enjoy.

26 June 2011

Greek Pasta Salad

Carbs are not my friend.  Well, actually they are; just maybe a little too much.  I could probably live off of bowls of steaming hot pasta, warm bread straight from the oven, and my own personal downfall, tortilla chips and salsa.  In fact, I've found myself begging my husband to remove the chip bowl from the table at Abuelo's, or asking him to throw his used, wadded up napkin into the bowl at the end of the meal so I didn't keep eating them.

Embarrassingly enough, sometimes even that doesn't stop me.

But not all carbs are bad, and certainly not in moderation.  Especially when you add a lot of vegetables, right?  That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

22 June 2011

Cake Mix Cookies

I am not a baker.  Now, that is not to say I don't enjoy eating baked goods--my pants would tell you otherwise.  But I don't like the precision required with baking--the lack of forgiveness if you accidentally use baking power instead of baking soda.

Not that I've done that before or anything.

So when a friend told me about this recipe, I felt like my prayers had been answered: the taste of homemade cookies without actually having to measure.  Hallelujah!

20 June 2011

Madness Meets Monday

Who am I kidding?  Madness pretty much meets our house every day.  Runs it, actually.  With a full-time job and a 4-year old boy, I usually consider it a success if we manage to eat by 8:00 and don't destroy the kitchen and/or dining room.  But sometimes the thought of tackling the whirlwind messes we create is more than I can bear on a Monday.

So, despite the horrendous temperatures here, we try to eat outside as much as we can this time of year.  The Doodlebug can run and play, and I can enjoy a glass of wine without wondering how (why??) spaghetti sauce is smeared on top of (underneath, on the side of) the kitchen table.

Tonight I made a quick rub for steaks and threw that on while the grill was warming.  Shucked some corn, and mixed together these ingredients:

Smeared the mixture over hot corn, and ended up with this:

And this:

Mexican Corn on the Cob (printable recipe)

1 cup shredded fresh parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons mayonniase
2 tablespoons sour cream
zest of 1 lime
juice of 1/2 lime
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
dash of kosher salt

Mix together mayonnaise and sour cream.  Add zest and juice, and mix in remaining spices.  Spread mixture on hot corn and roll in shredded cheese.