Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with citrusy lime chicken thighs

Citrusy Tequila Chicken Thighs. Photo courtesy of Family Circle magazine.

I like any occasion to add tequila to a meal. 

Many Americans probably agree, hence the eager acceptance of Cinco de Mayo in this country.

I plucked this Fifth of May celebration-worthy recipe from the pages of Family Circle. This is a dish I didn’t alter at all — it was great as-is. Feel free to grill the chicken on the stove if you don’t have a grill.

Citrusy Tequila Chicken Thighs and Rice Salad

Recipe from Family Circle magazine 

Ingredients

  • 1/2  cup  orange juice
  • 1/4  cup  lime juice
  • 1/4  cup  tequila (here’s the zinger!)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  McCormick Smokehouse pepper
  • 6 large skinless bone-in chicken thighs
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons leftover marinade
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3  cups cooked rice
  • 1/2   each red and yellow sweet peppers
  • 2 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon  chopped cilantro
Instructions
  1. Place orange juice, lime juice, tequila, canola oil, salt and pepper in a large resealable plastic bag. Add chicken and seal. Marinate in refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight.
  2. Heat gas grill to medium-high or prep charcoal grill with medium-hot coals and set up one side for indirect grilling. Lightly coat grill rack with oil or nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Remove the chicken from the plastic bag and pour marinade into a small saucepan. Boil for 1 minute and reserve. Place chicken on direct heat and grill for 5 minutes per side. Remove to indirect heat and grill for 20 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Baste every 5 minutes with the reserved marinade.
  4. To prepare the rice salad, in a large bowl, whisk olive oil, 3 tablespoons of the marinade and salt. Stir in rice, peppers, scallions and cilantro. Serve at room temperature with chicken.


A musical fruit recipe (part 2): This soup will kick you in the throat.


Oh, beans. How I love thee.

 

I’ve bombed every new recipe I’ve tried in the past few weeks.

My banana bread was dry. My fancy mac and cheese was bland. And there is a container pushed to the back of the refrigerator that holds the worst Thai chicken I have ever tasted.

These failures have made me revert back to more simple recipes that include one of my favorite recipes – beans.

I revisited the following recipe that I adapted from Your Highness of All Things Domestic, Martha Stewart.

The majority of the ingredients in this soup are cabinet staples. It’s easy to throw together and hard to mess up. Plus, it only takes one pot to put this recipe together.

Throat-Kicker Sante Fe Soup

Adapted from MarthaStewart.com

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon of paprika
  • 2 cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can of corn with bell peppers, drained
  • 1 can of diced green chilies
  • 2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 16 ounces low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup of water
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cilantro (optional)
  • Shredded cheese, sour cream (optional)

Instructions

  1. Heat the vegetable oil over medium heat in a big pot. Throw in the red onion and bell pepper, and cook until softened.
  2. Dump garlic, chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper and paprika into the pot with the onion and bell pepper. Cook for about one minute until the mix is fragrant, stirring often.
  3. Pour tomatoes, corn, green chilies, black beans, chicken broth and water into the pot. Stir to combine. Bring the soup to a boil, and then lower the heat to bring the soup to a simmer.
  4. Season soup with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in cilantro (if that’s your prerogative – there’s a healthy faction of people who hate the stuff).
  5. Cover soup, and simmer for 30 minutes. This gives all the ingredients a chance to get acquainted.
  6. Serve soup with sour cream and cheese, if you’re so inclined.

 

 

 

McDonald’s has made oatmeal a hot topic. Here’s how to make your own.

Photo courtesy of nate steiner via Flickr.

It took two minutes and three ingredients for my fiancé to change the way I look at breakfast.

It was a cool February morning. We were hungry and chilly and needed some food that would stick to our bones.

Rob removed a carton of Aldi-brand oatmeal from my cabinet. Then he showed me how real grown ups eat a proper breakfast.

Oatmeal has had its place on my kitchen shelves in every apartment in which I’ve lived. But oatmeal was just an item I needed on hand to whip up a batch of oatmeal-raisin cookies when the mood struck me. Occasionally I would by bags of the pre-flavored oatmeal that’s quick and easy to prepare when you’re in a hurry. But I never looked at those rolled oats in the cardboard carton as food with which I could satisfy my urges to get creative in the kitchen.

Rob got to pouring and measuring and stirring. Less than five minutes later, I was eating a bowl of hot oatmeal with raisins, cinnamon and brown sugar. This humble bowl of oatmeal was the beginning of my adoration of this bastion of fiber.

Oatmeal has become my go-to breakfast. It’s a blank canvas that waits for your personal touches. It’s easy, quick and cheap. It keeps you full until lunch. In a word, oatmeal is wonderful.

Recently, McDonald’s and a couple of oat-loving food writers have brought oatmeal to the front of internet food conversation.

Food columnist Mark Bittman just wrote a widely read article for the New York Times condemning McDonald’s oatmeal, which he said has been altered so much by the fast-food giant that the dish has more sugar than a Snickers candy bar. Bittman’s piece prompted a response from Tom Chiarella at Esquire Magazine based on his own experiences at the restaurant that defends the chain’s oatmeal.

While you decide if McDonald’s has bastardized oatmeal or brought a healthier option to the masses, why not make your own? It takes only two steps:

  1. Follow the directions on the carton of oatmeal. If you use milk instead of water (which is what I do), watch your oatmeal closely and stir often because it can easily bubble over the pot or bowl.
  2. Add your favorite ingredients.

Here’s a breakdown of some possible additions to oatmeal. Choose something from each category and make your own combinations.

  • Something sweet: Sugar, brown sugar, sugar substitute, honey, syrup
  • Something crunchy: Nuts (walnuts, pecans, etc.)
  • Something fruity: Dried fruit (raisins, golden raisins, Craisins, etc.), mashed banana, chopped apple, applesauce
  • Something flavorful: Cinnamon, nutmeg

Do you have your own oatmeal combination? Share the knowledge in the comments.

Throwing an Academy Awards party? Here are some ideas for entertaining a crowd

Photo courtesy of Dave_B_ via Flickr.

The Academy Awards ceremony is my Super Bowl.

I wait all year to see overpaid celebrities in expensive clothes accept awards for movies I may or may not have seen. Why? Because it’s just so glamorous. And every once in awhile, you get a surprise (remember Oscar winners Three 6 Mafia?).

Such an extravagant event is worthy of some stellar eats.

Here’s a collection for the people who will throw Oscar viewing parties and need something to feed their guests Sunday night. But this list also works for the folks like me who will be under a Snuggie for four hours watching the awards.

  • AllRecipes never disappoints with its collections of food for various occasions, and the website has some great Oscar-night suggestions. I’d like the ham bone soup for Winter’s Bone and margaritas on the rocks for 127 Hours. (All Recipes)
  • If you’re keeping the festivities simple, here’s a guide to some of the best microwave popcorn brands on the market … (Epicurious)
  • … And here are some labels to make your popcorn a little fancy. (The Kitchn)
  • Need a laugh? The snarky website Gawker has compiled a list of tongue-in-cheek dishes to serve during the awards, including Black Forest Swan Cake (“Garnish with coconut shaving ‘cuticles.'”), Helena Bonham Tartar Sauce and Annette Beignets. (Gawker)

There’s plenty of ways to wine, dine and White Castle the one you love on Valentine’s Day

Still looking for something to do for Valentine’s Day?

February 14 is a great day to spend with people you love, eating good food.

Here are a few ideas for dining out or staying in this Valentine’s Day. Have your own food-related plans? Know of another restaurant’s special? Leave a comment.

Going out

  • If you have a few extra bucks, Hillbilly Tea is offering a five-course dinner for two for $75 from 6-9 p.m. Feb. 12-14. The restaurant will also offer a vegan option for this dinner. (Hillbilly Tea, Consuming Louisville)
  • White Castle gets classy on Valentine’s Day – tablecloths, candles and a server to bring your sliders. Call (502) 361-2317, ext. 7, to reserve your table. (White Castle)
  • Impellizzeri’s will offer heart-shaped pizzas, half-priced bottles of wine and a flower to the first 50 couples to sing by the restaurant on the big day. (Impellizzeri’s)
  • At Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen, buy your sweetie a card, a slice of cake or pie and a scoop of ice cream for $5.95. (Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen)
  • Heine Brothers coffee is offering 15 percent off the shop’s raspberry white mocha and red hot mocha through Feb. 15. (Heine Brothers)

Staying in

  • Order a heart-shaped medium pizza from Bearno’s for $14.99. Get it delivered. (Bearno’s)
  • For the cooking inclined, here is a collection of 10 chocolate recipes, including gluten-free and low-fat options. (The Kitchn)
  • Want to cook for two (or one), but not sure how to cut down a recipe? Check out All Recipes for some tips. (All Recipes)

Time for some last-minute Super Bowl recipes

Photo courtesy of boo_licious via Flickr.

I’m not a big sports fan, but I can appreciate an event like the Super Bowl. Any event that brings people together and involves food can’t be all bad.

The big event is just a couple of days away. Here’s a few quick dishes that you can whip up if you still haven’t figured out what you’re going to feed the crowd.

Fruit dip –  Blend a package of softened strawberry cream cheese and a jar of marshmallow cream. Serve with your favorite fruits. (All Recipes)

Nachos – Heat a jar of picante sauce, a can of nacho cheese soup and some chopped jalapeno peppers on the stove. Stir often. Serve with chips.

Sliders – Mix a package of ground beef with two cap fulls of Mrs. Dash seasoning (or the store-brand equivalent, which is cheaper and tastes the same). Form into small patties. Grill in a medium pan. Top with slices of pepperjack cheese, and serve on King’s Hawaiian Rolls.

Potato wedges – Bake a bag of frozen potato wedges according to package instructions. Right after you take them out of the oven, sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika. Serve with ketchup spiked with Frank’s Hot Sauce.

Pizza – Top pita bread with pasta sauce, spinach and mozzarella cheese. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted.

S’mores – Top a graham cracker with a piece of chocolate and marshmallow. Put another graham cracker on top. Repeat with as many times as you like. Heat in microwave for 10 seconds. (Food Network)

Black bean soup – a musical fruit recipe, part one

You know what’s better than writing about beans?

Writing about beans while a Crock Pot full of them stews on my kitchen counter.

Last week, I confessed my love of beans and all their benefits to my health and wallet.

Now it’s time to share a few of my recipes. First up, black bean soup.

I was inspired by this post from Serious Eats, and I’ve added a few of my own touches. I recommend added some shredded Mexican blend cheese and some sour cream to this hearty soup. It’s also good with a tortilla on the side.

Black bean soup

Inspired by Serious Eats

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 (32-ounce) carton of chicken broth
  • 4 (15-ounce) cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 slices of bacon, uncooked and roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add onion and green pepper. Sauté until starting to soften, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add garlic, cumin and chili powder and cook 1 minute, stirring frequently.
  3. Add black beans, bacon and broth. Stir to combine.
  4. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook 20 minutes.
  5. Use an immersion blender to puree half of the soup. (If you don’t have an immersion blender, I highly recommend buying one – they are pretty handy. In the meantime, pour about half the soup into a blender and puree until smooth. Return the pureed soup to the pot.) Stir until both parts of the soup are combined.
  6. Stir in lime juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Enjoy.

It’s time to share my love affair with the musical fruit

 

They're good for your heart. Photo courtesy of Joelk75 via Flickr.

I have enough beans to last through the apocalypse.

That is, unless the zombies eat me first.

There’s black beans and refried beans and navy beans and pinto beans and baked beans. I have canned beans and dry beans, seasoned and unseasoned, fat-free and fatty.

Why do I have such a stockpile? In the past few months of living frugally, I’ve discovered that beans are:

  • cheap
  • healthy
  • hearty
  • versatile

To fully express my love of beans, I’m going to post a few recipes this week that feature the musical fruit, including a recent black bean soup recipe that changed my life.

Bring on Thanksgiving with the help of pumpkin spice muffins (Recipe)

Pumpkin spice muffins.

Thanksgiving is getting the shaft this year.

Before I could even put away my orange Pumpkin Fairy tutu, retailers had dragged out the trees, bows and candy canes.

But what about Thanksgiving? Where are all the pilgrim hats? The horn things filled with food? For goodness’ sake, where are the turkeys shaped like hands?

I’ve baked pumpkin spice muffins twice this past week to get myself and others into the Thanksgiving spirit. As Rob put it, the muffins “smell like autumn.” I hope you can also use this easy recipe to spread some Thanksgiving love.

Pumpkin spice muffins

Recipe adapted from my friend Sally Scherer, who got her version from All Recipes

Ingredients

  • One 15- or 16-ounce can of pumpkin (I prefer Libby’s)
  • One box of spice cake mix
  • One 6-ounce bag of dried cranberries, such as Craisins

Directions

  1. Dump the spice cake mix and can of pumpkin into a mixing bowl.
  2. Blend the cake mix and pumpkin until it looks like this:

    It looks gross, but it's very tasty.
  3. Pour in the bag of dried cranberries and mix them in with the batter.
  4. Lick the beaters (if you used a mixer) or spatula. Seriously. It’s imperative and delicious.

    This batter is delicious. Lick like no one's looking.
  5. Spray two muffin pans with nonstick spray or fill with cupcake liners. Fill two-thirds of each cups with batter.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
  7. Let muffins cool. Enjoy.

Where have you been all my life? 3 new ingredients in my kitchen

There I am, cooking and stuff. Photo courtesy of Marianne Hale's Facebook page.

Cooking has become my therapy.

I make simple dishes like omelets or twice-baked potatoes when I need to mull over something important. I cook a tedious recipe when I need to be distracted.

But cooking can get mundane if I don’t switch it up a bit and try new ingredients.

I’ve been playing around with some new-to-me food items and jazzing up my meals. These are my three favorite ingredients that I’ve recently discovered:

1. Golden raisins

Photo courtesy of shauna | glutenfreegirl via Flickr.

I used golden raisins for the first time when I made honey-carrot-raisin muffins. I was initially pissed that I had to buy a new kind of raisin (I keep a box of regular raisins on hand for impromptu oatmeal-raisin cookie making), but there is a noticeable difference between the light and dark varieties of dried fruit. Golden raisins are more tart and tangy than the dark raisins and work well in many recipes:

  • Waffles. Prepare mix according to the directions on the box. Throw in a mashed banana, a handful of chopped walnuts and a handful of golden raisins. Cook according to instructions.
  • Peanut butter and banana sandwich. Toast your favorite type of bread (white, wheat, English muffin, sandwich thin, etc.). Spread a hearty scoop of peanut butter on one side. Top with sliced banana. Sprinkle with golden raisins.
  • Trail mix. Mix golden raisins with walnuts, almonds, peanuts and chocolate chips.

2. Sesame oil. I’ve held up on buying sesame oil because I thought I would never use it. But it turns out that many Asian recipes call for this ingredient. I cooked this recipe for sesame chicken from Food Network Magazine as my inaugural run with sesame oil, and it was a success. The rich, pungent oil gave an authentic Asian flavor to the dish. If you prepare this recipe, however, be prepared to stand in front of the stove for a long time and be willing to wash a large stack of dishes.

3. Freshly ground mixed peppercorns. I bought a handy little pepper grinder a few weeks ago at Kroger for just $1.99 (a manager’s special). This has been the best two bucks I’ve spent in a while. Adding pepper seems very basic, but freshly ground pepper can make a dish sing with flavor. I use my pepper grinder on everything, including eggs, potatoes and broccoli. Unfortunately, the pepper in my cute shaker has sat on the stove unused for days. Sorry, little guy.