March 31, 2016

Avocado-Jalapeno Margaritas


4 oz tequila
1 jalapeno, halved
1 avocado, cubed
1 oz Patrón Citrónge
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 cups of ice

Soak the jalapeno in tequila for 1 hour, then muddle it. Strain out the jalapeno and discard it. Add the infused tequila and remaining ingredients to a blender. Pulse until smooth. Serve immediately.

Serves 2

My thoughts:
When my husband lived in Austin he became a big fan of avocado margaritas. They aren't quite as popular up here in Baltimore but luckily they are easy to make at home. All you need is a few ingredients and a powerful blender. We like them spicy so we soaked a jalapeno in the tequila first which added a gentle kick.

Baltimore-based Terra's Kitchen just started expanding their meal-kit delivery service to the DC/Nova/Richmond area in March. Previously, they were only available on the West Coast. They asked if I'd be interested in trying them out and developing a cocktail to accompany the meals. An avocado margarita seemed like the perfect pairing for any other three meals I was sent: Grilled Chicken Tacos with Avocado Goat Cheese Sauce, Southwestern Steak + Sweet Potato Bowl, Honey Mango Glazed Salmon + Blueberry Citrus Rice. Of course, I make a lot of our meals from scratch but with Matt back in school for yet another degree, we've been looking for short cuts. I've used another meal-in-a-box company before and it was okay but I was intrigued by Terra's Kitchen's promise of meals in 30 minutes, locally sourced foods, prepped ingredients, whole ingredients and their innovative vessel.

The vessel is basically a large, rather heavy cooler with shelves and reusable ice packs. The food comes in recyclable bins but the vessel and ice packs can be used up to 100 times. It comes with a free Fed Ex return label. All you have to do it put it outside the next day (or Monday if your delivery is on a Friday) and it gets picked up and returned to Terra's Kitchen to be sent out again. So much less waste than other meal-kit options. It kept the food super cool as well. In the box were also the recipes developed by chef and cookbook author Libbie Summers; wine and beer pairings; and cards talking about the inspiration behind the recipe and a little card that had trivia and facts about the ingredients. A cute idea and a conversation starter.

The first dish I tried was the Honey Mango Glazed Salmon + Blueberry Citrus Rice. I was impressed by the minimal (as possible) packaging. The parsley and blueberries were in the same box which was nice, it would be silly to have packed such tiny amounts in separate boxes. The dish did come together in 30 minutes and required very little prep on my part. Just chopping the mango, blueberries, and parsley then blending some of the mango with the honey in the blender. I liked how the mango did double duty by being in both the sauce and the salsa topping. Having fruit in the rice was interesting too, my first impulse would have been vegetables but I quite enjoyed it.

The second dish was the Southwestern Steak + Sweet Potato Bowl. This one was super easy because the sweet potato was already cubed into the perfect size to cook in 30 minutes. All I had to do was quickly make a spicy paste for the steak, grill it and cube an avocado. Super quick. I really liked the skirt steak, it was very juicy and flavorful without being greasy. It made me want to make steak more often.

For the final meal, Grilled Chicken Tacos with Avocado Goat Cheese Sauce, Matt and I decided to make a "date night" out of it and made the margaritas and had a picnic. The meal came together quickly and was easily adaptable. The recipe suggested cumin on the chicken but we had spicy chili powder so we added that for spice. I really liked the tangy avocado goat cheese sauce, it was thick and kept the taco from falling apart. Another major plus to this recipe? The fresh pico de gallo came prepared. This made the recipe even quicker than 30 minutes to make.

I was really pleased by my Terra's Kitchen experience. Another thing I liked about the service is that you have tons of recipes to choose from each week and they are all individually priced rather than having a flat rate. So if you want to splash out and have a steak dinner you can but you aren't paying a premium for meat if you are making mostly vegetarian dishes. They also offer snacks which is a fun idea. I used the two-person option but four-person boxes are available too, perfect for families or a couple who likes leftovers.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Terra's Kitchen. The opinions and text are all mine.

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March 23, 2016

Southwestern Avocado Egg Salad

6 hard-boiled eggs
2 avocados, cubed
1 jalapeno, diced
1/2 teaspoon Southwest seasoning
1/4 oz cilantro, minced
1/4 cup diced red onion
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper


Slice the eggs into sixths*. Remove the yolks (set aside the whites) and mash them with avocado and spices until smooth. Stir in the cilantro, jalapeno, and onion until well-distributed. Coarsely chop the whites if desired. Stir in the whites. Serve immediately.

*I use my egg slicer tool, setting the egg vertically on the base and using the wedge slicer for even wedges.

My thoughts:
This time of year is sure to bring an abundance of eggs. Even if you don't dye them for Easter, take advantage of sales and pick up a dozen (or two!) to play around with. Growing up I didn't like egg salad but what I think it came down to was that I didn't like the egg salad I was being served. I've always loved deviled eggs so my egg salad aversion even had me perplexed. It wasn't until more recent years I started making it myself and found I quite like it if jazzed up properly. I had some extra avocado and jalapeno so I had the idea to make it into egg salad. It was good! The avocados make it so creamy you don't even need to add mayo; perfect for the mayo-adverse. The jalapeno and red onion both add a crunch and zip and the Southwest seasoning ties it all together.

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March 21, 2016

Shrimp and Crab Stuffed Artichokes


2 large artichokes, streamed*, and halved
1/2 lb shrimp, chopped
1/2 lb blue crab claw meat
2 sprigs' worth fresh thyme leaves
4 oz diced crimini mushrooms
1 shallot, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine or seafood stock
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup bread crumbs
freshly ground black pepper
shaved Parmesan


Preheat oven to 350. Spray or grease a 2-quart baking dish, set aside.

Heat a small amount of canola oil in a skillet. Saute the shallot until softened. Add the shrimp, crab, mushrooms and saute until the shrimp is nearly cooked through. Season with salt and pepper. Add the stock and simmer until the shrimp is fully cooked and the liquid has mostly evaporated. Allow to cool slightly. Scrape into a bowl and stir in the grated Parmesan and bread crumbs. Stir to combine. Set aside.

Scoop out the choke of the artichoke, if needed. Place the artichokes, cut side up, on the dish in a single layer. Spoon 1/3-1/2 cup of filling into each artichoke. Top with shaved Parmesan.

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the stuffing and artichoke is heated through.

*Steam the artichokes in the Instant Pot or the old-fashioned way.

My thoughts:
I've seen so many recipes for stuffed artichokes that call for starting with raw artichokes and baking them for 40 minutes and even up to an hour. Who has time for that? I came up with this recipe that provides all the flavor but in a fraction of the time. I started with a steamed artichoke so you don't have guess if the artichoke is fully cooked (the hardest part of a baked stuffed artichoke, I think) and while it crisps up in the oven, it doesn't need to full cook so you can have this whole dish on the table in about 20 minutes. The result was perfection! Packed with both seafood and artichoke flavor this was a great change from the normal and easy enough for a weeknight.

Special thanks to Ocean Mist Farms for the artichokes. From March 18 to April 16, they are hosting a contest where you can win a trip for two Monterey, California on June 4-6, 2016 and attend the Castroville Artichoke Food and Wine Festival. Enter here!

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March 16, 2016

A Grown-up Shamrock Shake


for the milkshake:
1 1/2 oz Branca Menta
2/3 cup double chocolate gelato
1/2 cup milk

to make the syrup:

1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon Brancamenta

to serve: whipped cream

To make the syrup: Bring water and sugar to a boil, whisking until sugar is dissolved. Whisk in cocoa and continue to whisk until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the Branca Menta. Allow to cool.

Place the milkshake ingredients in a milkshake maker or blender. Add 1-2 tablespoons of the syrup. Blend until thick and creamy. Pour into a glass. Top with whipped cream and a drizzle of syrup. Serve immediately.

Serves 1. Refrigerate leftover syrup up to one week.

My thoughts:
Brancamenta is like Fernet-Branca's younger, more easily drinkable cousin. It is also an herbal digestif but it has a light, minty taste that is taste on its own, mixed into drinks or if you are feeling adventurous, made into a rich chocolate syrup and paired with yummy gelato. If you love a shamrock shake, you will really love this more adult, complex, homemade version. It is super simple to make and very refreshing!

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March 14, 2016

How to: Steam Artichokes in the Instant Pot

2 large artichokes
1 cup water, vegetable stock or white wine


Peel the stems of the artichoke. Remove the outer, tough leaves from the artichoke. Cut the top 1/2 inch or so off of the artichoke to reveal the choke. Place on the rack or in a steamer basket in the Instant Pot. Add the liquid. Close and press the STEAM button. Set for 10 minutes using the Manual button. After the time is up on the Instant Pot, quick release by turning the steam release handle manually to Venting. Remove the artichokes. Remove the choke. The artichokes are now ready for using in a recipe or eating as-is.

My thoughts:
This is the easiest way I have found to steam artichokes! It takes just over 10 minutes and the artichokes come out so tender, they are ready to chop or stuff or even just eat. Don't have an Instant Pot? Try it the old fashioned way.

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March 10, 2016

Stove-Top Sausage Ricotta Rigatoni

4 Hot Italian sausage links (about 1 lb), casings removed
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz crushed tomatoes
14 oz diced tomatoes
1 bunch basil, chopped
1 lb ricotta
12 oz rigatoni, cooked until slightly less than al dente
1 cup mozzarella

Saute the sausage until well cooked in a large, high walled skillet. Drain and add the onion and garlic. Saute until the onion is translucent. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Stir in the basil. Stir in the pasta, cook for 10-15 minutes, until the pasta is tender. Stir in the ricotta. Top with mozzarella, cover and until the mozzarella is melted.

My thoughts:
We bought all of the ingredients to make baked rigatoni and then yesterday ended up being the hottest day of 2016 so far. 80! I couldn't bare to turn on the oven. I didn't want the ingredients so go to waste so I came up with this. I figured when making baked pasta dishes you basically make the whole meal and then stick in the oven for 40 minutes to melt the cheese. This skips that step by melding all the ingredients on the stove top, then melting the cheese. You do miss some of the crispy bits if that is your thing but the result was quite similar but quicker and didn't heat up the house!

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March 01, 2016

Shrimp, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Rapini Pasta

7 1/2 oz sun-dried tomatoes in oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
1 bunch rapini, chopped
1 1/2 lb shrimp
5 oz jarred, fire-roasted red peppers, drained and sliced
freshly ground black pepper
3/4 lb cooked, hot pasta


In a large pan, heat the tomatoes and oil. Add the shallot and garlic and saute until the shallot is softened. Add the rapini and saute until well wilted, season with salt and pepper. Add the shrimp and peppers and saute until the shrimp is fully cooked, toss with hot pasta.

My thoughts:
This is a great weeknight meal for when you are short on time. It requires barely any prep work and zero measuring since you are using the flavorful oil that comes in the jar with the sun-dried tomatoes. I loved how the sun-dried tomatoes softened during the cooking time, I was able to leave them whole which is so much easier and less messy than slicing them up! Adding tons of rapini eliminates the need for a side dish and shrimp cook so quickly, the entire dish was done by the time the pasta was finished cooking. The final result was a light, fresh tasting pasta that was packed with flavor.

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