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Sweet and Spicy Honey Chipotle Infused Beets

Between the three boys’ birthdays, holidays, and my general love of entertaining, we host a good number of parties each year. So, it’s no surprise that we make regular trips to our local Party City.

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The curious thing is that visits to Party City have become high on the boys’ lists of favorite things to do. They ask for trips to Party City as rewards for good behavior. Musings about trips to Party City have even showed up in the boys’ school work. I’ve collected all varieties of art involving their favorite party supply store. Liam even listed it as his favorite place to visit in his kindergarten ‘All About Me’ book. And on last year’s Mother’s Day card, where every child in Liam’s class listed a reason they love their mother; things like She gives the best hugs, and She kisses all my boo-boos, and Her smile is brighter than the sun; Liam’s contribution was, She takes me to Party City. Clearly, I win the mother-of-the-year award.

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It’s like this mystical, magical land of party supplies and costumes. It’s pure fun, brightly displayed in a warehouse setting, with golden oldies playing in the background. There’s a wall covered in balloons, buckets full of candy and toys, and a whole rack of wacky sunglasses. What kid wouldn’t love Party City? But my boys take their love further than most.

So, I shouldn’t have been surprised about what happened as we were walking past Party City on a recent excursion for boots. We’d exited Famous Footwear, with James in his stroller and the boys in tow. As we neared Party City, the energy become palpable. James’ Elmo-radar activated at the sight of a 9-foot tall cardboard Elmo in the window. He began manically chanting Elmo, Elmo, Elmo as the boys bounced ahead of us. Liam and Lucas were buzzing on pure adrenaline by this point. As we began to make our pass, the automatic doors to Party City opened, as if by command of the boys’ enthusiasm. Keep moving, I instructed. Keep moving.

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But they didn’t keep moving. They just stood there; the two boys, side by side in the open doorways of their beloved Party City, as the cold winter weather rushed into the warm dreamland of party supplies. And then, in eerily perfect unison, they shouted into the bellows of the party warehouse, WE LOVE YOU, PARTY CITY!! WE LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!

What I would give to see the security footage of that moment!

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Like many others, I’ve been watching what I eat in the new year. As such, I’ve been dining on more salads than sandwiches and more scrambled egg whites than pancakes. But I need bold, satisfying flavors in my salads to keep me interested and keep me on track with my goals. Tender, slow-roasted beets which are infused with the sweet and spicy flavors of honey and chipotle have been providing exactly the sort of intense flavor I desire in a salad. Combine them with a bit of crisp and salty applewood-smoked bacon and a few crumbles of goat cheese, on top of a big pile of mixed greens tossed in a white balsamic vinaigrette and you’ve got a salad I would crave no matter what my fitness goals!

Today’s Focus on Technique – Uses for Beet Greens

Don’t let those gorgeous beet greens go to waste! They are delicious and good for you too! Use them in the same way you might use spinach, kale, or collard greens. Add them to salads, soups, sandwiches, or smoothies. Sauteé them with a bit of olive oil and garlic or bake them up like crispy kale chips.

Sweet and Spicy Honey Chipotle Infused Beets

Ingredients

  • 5-6 medium-sized beets
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 chipotle peppers (from a can of chipotle in adobo), very finely diced or pureed

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the top and bottom off of each beet. Rinse the beets, them securely wrap them in a piece of aluminum foil. Place the foil packet into a baking dish, then bake for about 90 minutes, until the tip of a knife inserts easily. Allow the beets to cool at room temperature. When cool enough to handle, use your fingers to slip the skins from the beets. (This will work best when they’re still slightly warm.) Alternately, you can use a knife to remove the skin. Cut the beets into fourths or eighths. Place them in a bowl. In a separate container, whisk together the apple cider vinegar, honey, and chipotle, until well blended. Pour the mixture over the beets, so that they are covered by the marinade. Refrigerate for a few hours.

Serving Suggestion - Serve your roasted, flavor-infused beets as part of a salad. Toss mixed greens (throw in the beet greens too) in a white balsamic vinaigrette (like the one used here). Top the greens with the beets, crumbled bacon, and a few crumbles of goat cheese. Vegetarians can substitute a small handful of pistachios for the bacon for equally delicious salty flavor and crunch.

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Creamy Chipotle Tomato Soup

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We have one of those Kinect sensors for the Xbox 360. We bought it on a whim a few months ago, in search of something fun and active to do as a family while we were all cooped up during the chilly winter months. We picked up a few games for the kids and ourselves and we played them often for about two weeks time. Then, our enthusiasm for our new toy waned and the games have gathered dust since.

Mostly, we use the Xbox 360 for watching movies and shows through Netflix. And my husband enjoys the convenience of the Kinect’s voice-command abilities. I, however, have been unable to get comfortable with shouting commands at the little sensor which sits perched on top of my tv. It just feels so We’re the Jetsons to me. Just can’t do it.

My husband, amused at my apprehension to talk to the machine, got a bit surly with it the other night. He started yelling at it, Xbox, make my dinner. Xbox, take a hike. Xbox, smell my feet. At each command, Xbox, upon hearing its name, would stop and try to process the request. Poor, confused Xbox was dutifully attempting to identify and obey each given command, while we sat by and giggled as it struggled.

Well…I’m pretty sure my husband broke the sensor with this little game. It hasn’t worked correctly ever since. It now requires most commands to be repeated multiple times or firmly shouted before it responds. It appears we’re dealing with a little case of boy-who-cried-wolf. The Xbox no longer believes we’re serious when we call it. Either that or it’s just angry and being difficult. It’s smart. It’s learning. And it freaks me out.

Thankfully, I am not reliant on the Xbox for doing my laundry or cooking my dinner.

We’re right about at that time of year when gardeners are proudly reaping the fruits of their labor in the form of baskets full of ripe, delicious tomatoes. I myself did not undertake trying to grow anything more than a few herbs and a beautiful flowering plant, which I promptly killed. I can grow some darn fine humans, but the ability to grow things in dirt eludes me. I buy my tomatoes at the grocery store and they have been garden-fresh, ripe, and delicious lately…the perfect tomatoes for fresh tomato soup. At any other time of the year, you might be wise to use canned tomatoes when making tomato soup, but now is the perfect time to use the season-peak ones you’re harvesting from your gardens or picking up in local farmer’s markets.

I give my tomato soup a spicy, smokey flavor with the addition of a chipotle pepper. A bit of heavy cream balances the spice and gives the soup a rich texture. The soup is garnished with a few homemade croutons and a couple dashes of chipotle tabasco sauce. On the side, I served a simple mixed green salad tossed in a ginger vinaigrette and grilled brie and gouda with bacon on French baguette. I’m fairly certain that the Xbox would have been incapable of coming up with something so perfectly simple and delicious as this…but don’t tell the Xbox I said that.

Creamy Chipotle Tomato Soup

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled and deseeded, coarse chopped*
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 chipotle pepper (from a can of chipotles in adobo)
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste
  • Chipotle Tabasco Sauce, optional (for garnish)

*Click HERE to see my photo guide on how to peel and deseed tomatoes.

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion. Cook for 7-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two. Add the tomatoes, vegetable stock, chipotle pepper, and tomato paste. Simmer over medium/medium-low heat for about 25 minutes, stirring frequently. The tomatoes should almost completely break down during the cooking time. Allow the mixture to cool slightly, then transfer to a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth, then return to the pan. Add the cream. Season with salt, to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon should do the trick). Add cayenne pepper, to taste, if additional spiciness is desired. Warm gently over medium-low heat.

Garnish with a few dashes of chipotle tabasco and homemade croutons.

Makes 2 generous servings

* For the homemade croutons, simply toss a few chunks of French bread in a bit of olive oil, season with cajun seasoning or any other seasoning, then bake in a 375 degree oven until toasted, about 10 minutes or so.

Chipotle Steak Quesadillas

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Remember when I told you to put the rest of that pureed chipotle in the freezer? You did that, right? Excellent! It’s time to take it out to defrost, because we’re making Chipotle Steak Quesadillas! No worries if you don’t have any pureed chipotle peppers hanging out in your freezer. Just pick up a can of chipotles in adobo (probably in the International section of your grocery store) and you’ll be ready to go. Rinse the chipotles, or not, and puree them in a blender or food processor. Store the unused pureed chipotle in your freezer. It’s great in dressings and marinades or as part of a chipotle butter.

This is a super simple, yet incredibly satisfying meal! It requires very little in terms of ingredients and cooks fast. In the quesadillas, we’re using juicy skirt steak, seasoned with chipotle pepper, and held together with melty pepperjack cheese. Skirt steak is generally known for being one of the toughest cuts of steak, but I’ve honestly never encountered a tough skirt steak. When cooked quickly at high heat and cut against the grain, they are incredibly flavorful and practically fall apart. Good substitutes for skirt steak would be flank or hanger steak. On the side, we’re having a salad of sweet corn, avocado, red bell pepper and a bit of jalapeno pepper. This bright, refreshing salad is a cool balance to the heat of the quesadillas.

Chipotle Steak Quesadillas

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Skirt Steak, about 2 steaks
  • 2 Tbsp Pureed Chipotle Pepper
  • Salt
  • 8 Flour Tortillas
  • 2 cups Pepperjack Cheese, grated

Directions

Preheat broiler. Place the steaks on a baking sheet. Season with salt and rub each steak with about a tablespoon of pureed chipotle. Place in the oven, a few inches under the broiler. Cook for 8-10 minutes, until steak reaches a minimum temperature of 145 degrees. Remove the steaks and turn the oven down to 375 degrees. Allow the steak to cool for a couple minutes, then cut into small pieces. Arrange 4 of the tortillas on a baking sheet. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup of cheese onto each tortilla. Divide the steak onto the four tortillas. Sprinkle 1/4 cup more cheese onto the steak. Cover with the remaining 4 tortillas. Bake in the oven for about 8-10 minutes, until the cheese is melty and the tortilla begins to feel slightly hard. Remove from the oven and allow the quesadillas to cool for a couple minutes. (This will make them easier to cut.) Use a pizza cutter to cut each quesadilla into six pieces.

*If desired, the meat can be cooked ahead of time and refrigerated until you’re ready to make the quesadillas.

Serves 4

Corn, Avocado, and Pepper Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Sweet Corn Kernels
  • 1 Avocado, diced
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, ribs and seeds removed, diced
  • 1 Jalapeno Pepper, ribs and seeds removed, finely diced
  • 1 Tbsp Lime Juice

Directions

Toss the Avocado in the lime juice to prevent discoloring. Combine all ingredients. Refrigerate.

Grilled Ribeye Steaks and Grilled Fingerling Potatoes with Gorgonzola

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I’m not a lawyer or anything, but I’m pretty sure there is a law that mandates grilling on Memorial Day. In accordance with this purported law, we shall be grilling steaks and potatoes tonight.

Grilled Ribeye Steak with Chipotle Butter, Grilled Fingerling Potatoes with Gorgonzola, and Corn on the Cob

I chose a thick, marbled ribeye steak and fingerling potatoes.  Russet potatoes would work well, but will need more cooking time. And, remember that chipotle butter we made last week?  Throw a dollop of that on the steak!  Sprinkle a little gorgonzola on the potatoes and serve with a piece of corn on the cob!

A little guide for grilling steaks:

  • Take the steak out of the fridge about 30-45 minutes prior to grilling to allow it to come up to room temperature. Allowing the steaks to come to room temperature facilitates even cooking.
  • Meanwhile, fire up your grill. Whether using a gas or charcoal grill (my preference), get it good and hot. Charcoal should have a coat of white ash and glow red in the middle. Distribute the coals unevenly, so that one side is stacked with coals and the other side has a lower, single layer of coals.
  • Remove the grill plate and rub it with a little olive oil to prevent sticking.
  • Just prior to grilling, season your steak with a little salt and pepper. Avoid doing this until the last minute, as the salt will draw out the juices in the steak.
  • Sear the steak over high heat for a minute or two on each side. (If using a charcoal grill, sear over the stacked coals). Searing the steak over high heat seals in the juices.
  • If using a gas grill, turn the heat down to medium. If using a charcoal grill, move the steak over the lower heat, single layer of coals.
  • Allow the steak to cook for about 3-6 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the steak and your desired doneness. Rotate the steak 45 degrees halfway through, to give it a nice quadrillage (diamond pattern).
  • You can check the steak’s doneness by feeling the steak or using a meat thermometer.  My preference is to insert a meat thermometer into the side of the steak.  (Rare: 125 degrees,  Medium Rare: 130-135 degrees, Medium: 140-145 degrees, Medium Well: 150-155 degrees, Well: 160-165 degrees)
  • Remove the steak from the grill about 5 degrees below your desired temperature, as the steak will continue cooking off the heat.
  • Cover the steak and allow it to rest for about 5 minutes before cutting or serving. Resting allows the juices to redistribute within the steak.

Using a chimney starter eliminates the need for smelly lighter fluid.

To Grill Fingerling Potatoes:

Pour a small amount of olive oil onto a large piece of foil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pierce each potato a few times with a fork. Place potatoes onto the oil.  Thoroughly wrap the potatoes in the foil.  Double wrap if necessary to seal in the oil. Grill for about 30-40 minutes, until fork tender. For larger potatoes, allow for longer grilling time.

Corn on the Cob:

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Put the shucked corn into the boiling water.  Boil for about 5-8 minutes.

And for dessert…

Bordeaux Cherry Brownie Ice Cream with Fresh Cherries

Salmon Burgers with Horseradish Sauce and Corn on the Cob with Chipotle Butter

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I make my salmon burgers the same way I make my crab cakes… heavy on the seafood, light on the filler. I like big chunks of salmon, blended together with just enough egg, bread crumbs, and mayo to hold it together.  A bit of mustard and creole seasoning adds the perfect flavoring! Served on an kaiser roll with a spicy horseradish sauce, this is a delicious way to enjoy salmon! I use fresh salmon fillets in my recipe, but you can substitute canned salmon, if desired.

Corn on the cob, served with chipotle butter makes a perfect side dish for this meal.  Chipotles are smoked jalapeno peppers; spicy and delicious! You should be able to find canned chipotles in adobo sauce in the Mexican or Latin foods section of your grocery store.  Adobo is simply a seasoned tomato-based sauce.  You can either discard the adobo sauce, or use some of it in the butter. You’ll only need 1/8 cup of pureed chipotle peppers for the butter, but puree all the peppers.  You can store the unused puree in the freezer for future use. (I’ll share my recipe for Chipotle Steak Quesadillas with you soon!)

Chipotles in Adobo

Salmon Burgers with Horseradish Sauce

For the burgers:

  • 1 pound salmon fillets
  • 1 tsp prepared mustard
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 egg white, beaten
  • 2 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 tsp Creole Seasoning
  • 4 Kaiser Rolls

For the Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup Sour Cream
  • 2-3 Tbsp Horseradish Sauce

To prepare the salmon – Preheat your broiler. Place the salmon fillets under the broiler and cook for about 4 minutes on each side, until cooked through. When the salmon is cool enough to handle, flake the fish into large chunks.

To make to burgers – Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a bowl, combine all ingredients, except the salmon, until well blended. Gently fold in the salmon. Form into four burgers. Spray a baking sheet with a little Pam or a small amount of olive oil. Place the burgers on the baking sheet. Bake for about 10-12 minutes until heated through.

For the horseradish sauce - Combine sour cream with 2-3 Tbsp horseradish. (I use 3.)  Stir until well blended. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Serve burgers on kaiser rolls with lettuce, tomatoes, and horseradish sauce. Makes 4 burgers.

Salmon Burger with Horseradish Sauce

Corn on the Cob with Chipotle Butter

  • 4 ears of corn, husks removed
  • 1/8 cup pureed Chipotle Peppers
  • 1 Stick Butter

Remove chipotle peppers from adobo.  Wipe off excess adobo. Puree peppers in a blender or food processor until smooth.  Melt butter in a small saucepan over very low heat.  Add 1/8 cup pureed chipotle pepper and stir. Gently cook over very low heat for a minute or two. For the smoothest result, you can pour the melted chipotle butter through a fine sieve to remove seeds and any large chunks. (I skip this step!) Pour chipotle butter into a bowl and refrigerate, stirring every 15 minutes, until firm. Allow butter to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before using. To cook the corn, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the corn and boil for about 5-8 minutes. Spread chipotle butter on corn and enjoy!!

Chipotle Butter

Salmon Burger with Corn on the Cob and Chipotle Butter

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