Fresh Mex + A Life Update

I cannot believe I haven’t posted since Christmas break. I think about it a lot, but somehow never actually sat down and posted. I don’t think there’s any way I could possibly summarize this spring semester, except to say it’s been quite insane. Just since April 24th a few things that have happened: state tennis tournament, prom, a wonderful trip to NYC, a dramatic physics boat race, multiple lake trips with both family and friends, a wedding shower for my sister, helping pack and move my other sister (while also moving my stuff and sending much of it up to where I’ll be living in the fall), I turned 18, graduated high school, drove to Colorado (which included spending some time in Santa Fe which was awesome), where I now am and am enjoying spending time with my parents. So, quite a few things going on.

I feel so fortunate to have been able to do and experience so many things this year. I know I’m truly blessed. Of course, it hasn’t all been perfect. There’s been the not so great stuff, too. This whole partially living in Texas while my dad works in Colorado has been challenging on my family. There was an unexpected college acceptance letter that actually caused more tears than a rejection letter ever would have. There’s been AP tests and other school stuff that brought upon plenty of stress. The realization that I really am an adult, 18 and done with highschool,  brings both sadness and excitement. In just a few days, I’ll be boarding an airplane by myself and spending six weeks in a place with all brand new people. I’ll be a day camp counselor for kids from an Indian tribe as part of a mission set up in North Dakota. I’m greatly looking forward to it, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a bit nervous. Your prayers would be lovely!

Anyway, last night I decided to cook dinner for my parents.

The Menu:

  • Homemade guacamole and homemade salsa with chips
  • Spinach Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing,red onion and jicama
  • Flambéed Margarita Shrimp

Basically, a cover everything in lime and cilantro kind of dinner! My favorite thing about all of it is that none really requires formal recipes or exactness, but a more add stuff in until it taste good type meal.

 This salsa with the juice of one lime added (it makes everything better!) and guacamole (avocado + lime juice + kosher salt + tomato + onion + garlic). Delicious, but pretty ordinary.

Mexican Summer Salad

This delicious salad is fresh, bright and bursting with summer flavor. My apologies for not being able to give amounts. But, it’s not an exact science. I could try, but I never measure making salads. Just combine the amounts that feel right to you!

Ingredients:

Baby Spinach

Jicama, sliced into thin strips

Crispy, tricolored tortilla strips

Red onion, sliced into thin strips.

Cilantro Lime Dressing:

Olive oil

Fresh lime juice

Chopped fresh cilantro (lots!)

Drizzle of honey

Sprinkle of kosher salt

Minced garlic

Dash of chili powder.

Instructions

Combine salad dressing ingredients well. Taste and add more of desired ingredients. Toss with spinach, tortilla strips, jicama, and onion. Serve Immediately.

Next up Margarita shrimp. Don’t worry if you aren’t of age, the alcohol cooks off just leaving delicious flavor. Combined with two of my favorite things ever (cilantro and lime) this shrimp is light and tasty.

Margarita Shrimp

Ingredients:

Medium sized raw shrimp, peeled with veins removed and tails still on

Butter

Cilantro, cleaned and shopped

Fresh Limes

Tequila

Instructions:

In a medium skilled, melt about one tablespoon of butter. Add about 10-12 shrimp. When shrimp are pink and almost completely cooked through, pour in a couple of table spoons tequila. Tilt skilled towards flame. If this doesn’t work or you do not have a gas stove, light with lighter. At this point, the pain should flame up a decent amount. Shake the pain as this is happening, the alcohol will burn out and the flame will go out quickly. Add this point, toss into the pan a small handful of cilantro and squeeze in the juice of half a lime. Toss to coat shrimp. Make sure shrimp is cooked through, remove from pan and serve. Repeat process with remaining shrimp.

The cilantro has not been added at this point, some just remains in the pain from the previous batch

You can sort of see a tiny flame in this picture, it should definitely get way bigger than this.

Cilantro and lime are added

Shrimp is ready to eat!

Dinner is served.

Not too shabby, eh? Serve up some limeade or even a Margarita and you’ve got yourself a nice summer evening.

What is your favorite type of cuisine?

I’ve definitely been loving using some Mexican flavors. Espically during summer, I like to use them in a fresher, lighter way than traditional Mexican cuisine (not that that isn’t delicious too).

Just a Dinner

I’ve spent the last 12 days enjoying Christmas break by spending time in Colorado. Snowmobiling, sledding, hiking, skiing, cooking and, most importantly, spending time with family has occupied much of my time.

Homemade pasta for Christmas Eve Dinner

Sunset as Thunder Mountain

 Yesterday morning my grandmother, aunt, uncle and two cousins departed leaving only my immediate family here. My oldest sister, Sara, and I decided that a gourmet home cooked meal was in order. After debate and planning, a menu was set.

Appetizer: Stuffed Mushrooms

Soup: Japanese Pumpkin, Vanilla, and Garlic Soup

Salad: Baby Spinach, goat cheese, pom seeds, pears and a citrus vinaigrette

Entrée: Cider brined pork tenderloin with rosemary roasted potatoes

Dessert: Chocolate mouse with espresso whip cream and raspberries

 Portobello mushrooms stuffed, baked and cut into triangles

based off of this recipe

The table was set and it was time for the real food to begin….

Japanese Pumpkin, Vanilla and Garlic Soup

Last Friday, we actually went out for a nice dinner to celebrate my sister Katherine’s graduation. The restaurant served this soup and luckily for you and me, they featured the recipe on their website. There was no kabocha squash at the grocery store here so I used acorn. The soup ended up being pretty thick so we thinned with some chicken broth during the final step (part of this might have been because I used an immersion blender to blend the squash so I didn’t add any water then). It was a delicious and flavorful soup!

Main dish

 Cider Brined Pork Tenderloin with Dijon Brown Sugar Glaze

Ina Garten’s Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

Salad with spinach, pom arils, goat cheese, pears and a random dressing of orange juice concentrate (leftover from pork brine), olive oil, red wine vinegar, drizzle of honey, rosemary, dry mustard, salt, pepper, etc….just threw stuff in until it tasted good!

The meal ended with a delicious chocolate mousse. Yum!

Although I’d recommend serving much smaller portions of it than we did….so rich!

 Overall, a delicious dinner!! I highly recommend all of these recipes. I seriously love planning, preparing, and eating fancy meals! I especially love plating the food and setting the table to make it look nice! I seriously can’t wait to be married and have other couples over for dinner parties. Is that weird?

I’m so normal. Weeeeee

The only thing I don’t like is doing dishes and cleaning up. I’ll cook, you do the dishes. Sound like a plan?

What’s your favorite thing to do when you have free time?

I love cooking nice meals. I also love playing games. Quelf, Catch Phrase, spades, Last Word, and Bananagrams are just a few of my favorites!

What’s the best thing you’ve eaten this holiday season?

The chocolate mouse above definitely ranks high on my list!

Homemade Caramel Apple Spice Cider

I’ve never been much of a coffee drinker. On rare occasions when I am feeling in need of the caffeine boost, I’ll drink a cup of coffee, but I make myself consume it black so I don’t actually like the way it tastes and that way I won’t get addicted to it. That sort of makes a little bit of sense, right?

While I definitely enjoy hot tea often, apple cider is my winter beverage of choice. Say what you want about hot chocolate or eggnog, but in my mind apple cider is the perfect beverage on a cold winter’s day. Recently, I’ve become a bit obsessed with Starbuck’s caramel apple spice. But, with my gift card supply dwindling and not wanting to shell out $3+ of my own money, I decided to make my own.

Turns out, their “apple spice” is simply a mixture of steamed apple juice and cinnamon dolce syrup that is topped with whipped cream and caramel sauce. I can do that. And so can you.

The front one is topped with whipped coconut milk. Great if your vegan or dairy-free!

Cinnamon Dolce Syrup

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup water

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp  ground cinnamon

1-2 cinnamon sticks

1/2 tsp whole cloves

1/2 tsp whole allspice

Peel of one small orange (a clementine cutie works well)

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Simmer on low heat for 40 minutes. Mixture should be very fragrant. Remove cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice and orange peel from the syrup. Syrup may be stored in the fridge in an airtight container.

For Apple Cider:  

Place 2 tablespoons (more or less depending on how sweet you like your cider) cinnamon dolce syrup in the bottom of a mug. You can add a little caramel sauce in the bottom of the mug at this point also. Fill mug with apple juice. Microwave for about 1 1/2 minutes until throughly heated. Topped with whipped cream and caramel, if desired. Serve and enjoy!

Beverage is best enjoyed by a fire.

I’d certainly argue that this is way better than Apple Spice at Starbucks. It has more flavor for which I give much of the credit to the orange peel. I also love that you can easily control the level of sweetness.

Then again, I’m not exactly unbiased.

What is your winter drink of choice? Anyone like eggnog?

I haven’t actually tried it since I was 10 or so, but I remember thinking it was the nastiest thing ever. I’m afraid to try it again!

I hope everyone is enjoying getting ready for Christmas! I can’t believe it is so soon.

Girls Life Magazine Feature: Uncut Edition

I was featured in the October/November issue of Girl’s Life Magazine.

It’s on page 82; you should really check it out. You can find out super random information like my favorite food!

I was beyond excited when they asked to feature me and I sent them a ton of information for the potential article. Obviously, not everything I gave them (they asked for quite a few things and I’m not exactly concise!) could be published in the magazine. I’m incredibly grateful that they chose to feature me at all.

I thought it would be fun to share with you just some of the Q&A and pictures that weren’t printed. Here ya go:

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How would you describe your personal style? Casual and practical, yet fun and girly. I like to keep the basics pretty simple, but add fun touches to dress things up. I definitely believe that a cute scarf makes an outfit in the same way an interesting pillow transforms plain bedding into something personal and unique.
 
How would you describe your food? I strive to create food that is delicious and satisfying, yet nourishing and nutritious. There’s nothing worse than feeling sick or lethargic after eating a meal. I love making food that is both tasty and makes you feel good. I always use lots of fresh ingredients.
 How is the food you enjoy making representative of your personal style? My food is basically my heart on a plate. Just as I’m practical, yet quirky and fun, so is my food. I’m outdoorsy and active, yet girly; my food provides fuel for the body while delighting the tastebuds.
 
How has your blog changed since you started it? At the beginning I was all about healthy, healthy, healthy. If a food wasn’t totally 100% “healthy” and nutritious, I wouldn’t post about it. Now, I’ve realized that I can post whatever I want. If I make something delicious, I’ll post it no matter the nutritional value. A healthy life can include some not-so-nutritious indulgences.
When it comes to food, what is the most important thing? That it looks appealing! I know it sound superficial, but you eat with your eyes first, so if a food looks unappetizing you’re automatically going to not like it as much.
When did you start cooking? What’s your first memory of cooking, or being in the kitchen?
I’m pretty sure I was born with a spatula in hand! No really, every since I was itty bitty I’ve  loved to be in the kitchen. I was friends with these girls who lived two doors down from me and I remember when I would go to their house their mom would let us make muffins without a recipe. She would just put in some flour and sugar and let us add anything we wanted: cereal, marshmallows, whatever. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I think that is when I first realized how much I love experimenting and being creative in the kitchen. I was probably six at the time.
Who is your favorite chef/celebrity chef? What’s your favorite cookbook?
 I’m a bit of a food network junkie; I love so many different chefs. I’d have to say Emeril Lagasse though. He was the first chef I ever remember watching, when I was 8 or 9. I love the energy and life he displayed in the kitchen. He made me realize that the kitchen isn’t just a place to slave away, but rather a place to have fun and enjoy your time in.
I’ll be honest, I almost never use cook books. I could spend hours at Barnes and Noble perusing through cookbook after cookbook, but I never actually cook from cookbooks. I have issues following directions. I mostly use recipes as inspiration. Any cookbook with lots of bright, vivid pictures is a win in my book. Lately, I’ve been loving Peas and Thank You by Sarah Matheny; I’m no vegan but it’s fun to try new things.
 
What does cooking mean to you?
I see it as as an act of love. I may not go around telling everyone I love them, but I think the message is conveyed when I serve them fresh cobbler with homemade ice cream.

 
What else do you do, aside from cooking? So many things! I love to play tennis. I spend a lot of time at the lake and I love kayaking, wakeboarding, tubing, jet-skiing. Hiking and swimming are great also. I’ve recently started experimenting with photography. I’m on student council and help lead a youth group at my school. I’m also pretty involved at my church. Pretty much I’m one of those people who gets involved in every possible activity! I’ve learned that eating a nutritious diet helps fuel me for all of these activities!

Do you want to cook professionally? In some form, yes. The late nights and intensive labor of being a restaurant chef don’t appeal to me, though. I’d love to teach cooking classes, be a food writer or work on recipe development for a magazine. Nutrition research also intrigues me. Food will definitely affect my future career path in some form.
 
Why is it important for tweens and teens to get in the kitchen? I think it’s a great creative outlet. I’ve always been jealous of people who are really artistic as I can’t paint or draw to save my life. But, then I realized, I am artistic and creative! Food is my medium :)
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The pictures are of my Cinnamon Apple Crunch Bars (with peanut butter option) and my favorite parfaits. The recipe should be posted on GirlsLife.com within the next week or so. If you want it sooner, feel free to email me and ask for it.
When it comes to food, what do YOU think is the most important thing?

How would you describe the food that YOU make?

Feel free to answer any of the questions about yourself! I’d love to know more about YOU!

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My Favorite Muffins: The Choice is Yours


I’ve been holding back on you. I’ve never shared with you the recipe for my and my family’s favorite ever muffin recipe: Applesauce Spice Muffins. The name doesn’t allude to anything grand or special, but let me tell you these muffins are glorious. You’ll find yourself eating one and then another and, before you know it, ten muffins will have somehow found their way into your person. Tricky little guys these muffins are.

Oh and whenever we share these with anyone, they undoubtedly ask for the recipe. If I was the betting type, I would consider waging money that someone might just ask you for the recipe.

I decided to make them a little healthier. Now, you won’t find me trying to improve the nutritional value of a cupcake. Healthy cupcake just screams oxymoron to me. But if I can make muffins, perfect little breakfast pastries from heaven that they are, a little healthier, you can bet I’m going to do it.

I’ve decided to share with you both the original recipe and the “healthier” version. They are both wonderful and delicious. I won’t say they taste exactly the same, because they don’t. But I happen to love both of them. If you just can’t decide, make both.

Make these today. Save some for tomorrow – perfect way to celebrate Muffin Monday.

Family Favorite Applesauce Spice Muffins

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 cup applesauce

2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 Tbsp cinnamon

1 tsp allspice

1/4 tsp cloves

Powdered sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter, add sugar, beating at medium speed; add egg, beating well. Add applesauce, mixing well. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients; add to creamed mixture. Fill greased mini muffins pans about 3/4 full. Bake for 14 minutes. Cool. Dust with powdered sugar just before serving/eating. Enjoy!

*batter can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks prior to baking as they’re best fresh

Extra Fueling Applesauce Spice Muffins

Ingredients:

1/4 cup of butter, softened.

1/4 cup sugar (I used blended sucanat)

1/4 cup honey

2 eggs

1 1/4 cups applesauce

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 Tbsp cinnamon

1st allspice

1/4 tsp cloves

Powdered sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees

Cream together butter, sugar, honey, and 1/4 cup applesauce. Add eggs and  remaining applesauce, mixing well. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients; add to creamed mixture. Mix well. Filled greased muffin pans about 3/4 full. Bake for 14 minutes. Cool dust with powdered sugar just before serving.

*Both recipes make about 30-36 mini muffins

*It is correct that the original recipe has one egg and the healthified recipe has two. That is not done to improve nutritionally value, but it simply what worked in my experimentation.

Which muffin recipe will you try?

Are you good at making decisions?

I am not. Even little tiny decisions, take me forever and usually end with, “I’m good with anything, you decide.” But as bigger decisions loom in my future (hello college, career choices, etc), I’m realizing that little decisions such as what restaurant to go to or whether to do my English presentation on Powerpoint or Prezi really aren’t all that important.  Of course, in the instance of these muffins my inability to make decisions would surely come in handy. I’d make both and be better off for it. You should do the same (:

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