Avocado & Edamame Salad

I’ve been trying to broaden my vegetable side dish repertoire. It’s easy to get stuck in a habit of rotating variations of broccoli, Brussels sprouts and asparagus. So to freshen things up, I found an awesome (and versatile)  avocado dressing to spoon over a medley of crisp chopped veggies. The result is this Avocado & Edamame Salad – full of vitamins, nutrients, protein, and flavor.

Avocado Salad with Grilled Chicken Kabob

A note about the dressing – it makes alot. Much more than you will need for the salad. And even though the source recipe says it can keep fresh in the fridge, I found that it was best the first day. It was still good a few days later, but I wouldn’t keep it for the full 10 days that they suggest. But considering how good this dressing is, it isn’t hard to find uses for it. It makes a great dip (for fresh veggies or tortilla chips), spoon it over grilled meat (like the chicken above), or just get out your spoon :)

Avocado Dressing

Avocado Dressing

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 T. balsamic vinegar
  • 4 sprigs cilantro
  • Juice of 1 1/2 limes
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • water (about 1/2 C.)

Combine avocado, garlic, vinegar, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper into a food processor. Pulse until smooth. Slowly add water until desired consistency is reached. Best if used immediately. Or cover and keep refrigerated for up to a week.

Recipe modified from Eat, Lift & Be Happy

Avocado & Edamame Salad

  • 1 C. edamame beans, steamed
  • 1/2 C. yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 – 3/4 C. mango, diced
  • 1/4 C. red onion, diced
  • 1/2 Pt. cherry tomatoes
  • 2 T. cilantro, minced
  • 1/2 – 1 C. lettuce (bibb or romaine) cut into small bites
  • Avocado dressing

Combine all ingredients except dressing into a bowl. Add dressing 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, and mix to coat. Continue adding dressing until all vegetables are evenly coated.

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Cinco de Mayo Feast

Cinco de Mayo is one of my favorite pseudo-holidays. Although it has historical significance in certain regions of Mexico, it has become a day to embrace Mexican culture here in America….but for me (and plenty of others, I’m sure), it’s just a great excuse to eat fresh Mexican food and imbibe in some refreshing Mexican spirits. Skip the crowded Mexican restaurant this year, and fix a feast at home. Here are some of my favorite recipes to help you along your way!

Taco Seasoning

  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. chipotle powder (or red pepper powder)
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika

Combine all ingredients. Use to season ground beef, chicken, or steak.

Cilantro & Garlic Chicken

Tender chicken that falls to shreds with the touch of a fork. This can be used as filling for tacos, burritos, enchiladas, or quesadillas.

Shredded Chicken

For recipe, click HERE!

Mango Salsa

Super fresh and flavorful, use it as a chip dip or add a spoonful over your entree.

Mango Salsa

For recipe, click HERE!

Grilled Corn & Avocado Salsa

Super fresh and flavorful, use it as a chip dip or add a spoonful over your entree.

grilled corn & avocado salsa

For recipe, click HERE!

Jalapeno Poppers

A baked version of the appetizer favorite.

poppers

For recipe, click HERE!

Pork Taquitos

A great way to use up leftover pulled pork

Baked Pork Taquito

For  recipe, click HERE!

Mexican Rice

Mexican Rice

For  recipe, click HERE!

Guacamole

guacamole

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tap. pepper
  • Dash Tabasco sauce

Combine all ingredients, mash with a fork until desired consistency is reached.

For a zestier guacamole, add 2 tablespoons of salsa, 2 tablespoons of minced red onion, and a handful of chopped cilantro.

Margarita

Last, but certainly not least, the quintessential Mexican cocktail.

margarita

For the recipe, click HERE!

B.L.(A)T.

Whether for a filling lunch or a quick supper, a BLT (bacon, lettuce, tomato) sandwich is good to have in your repertoire. Juicy ripe tomatoes, thick-cut bacon, and crisp greens on a crusty baguette. Adding a little garlic herb butter (in lieu of mayonnaise) and some sliced avocado takes this classic up a notch.

BLT with Avocado

Slice your bread almost in half (this makes for easier eating) and spread the inside with garlic herb butter. Put the bread butter-side down in a heated nonstick pan (you could also grill the bread or use the broiler in the oven). Press it down some, to make sure it gets evenly toasted.

garlic herb butterGarlic Bread

Now it’s just a matter of layering in the B, L, A, and T. This is easier said than done. That freshly grilled bread smells real good, and it’s tempting at this point to abandon sandwich and just eat garlic bread for dinner….if you decide to go down this path of garlicky good-ness, I suggest you serve your bread with a nice side salad. Crisp greens, tomato, avocado and crumbled bacon maybe?

Cilantro & Garlic Tacos with Mango Salsa

When I met The Man, he claimed to not like Mexican food. But I love Mexican food! Ok, I thought, this is a small concession that I can live with. But a life without Mexican food means no fresh salsas, no garlic and cilantro marinated meats, no cheesy saucy baked tortilla dishes….no Margarita Thursdays!? Ok, this was a bigger problem than I first thought!

Chicken Taco

His former experience with Mexican cuisine involved greasy, bland concoctions that contained suspect meat products and void of all vegetables. Yea, I would hate that too. When I think Mexican, I think fresh, full of complex flavors, and tons of color. Well it turns out that he doesn’t hate Mexican food – he just hates bad Mexican food! Phew! We dodged a bullet there…

Garlic & Cilantro Garlic & Cilantro Marinade

Let’s start with the meat. Whether I’m making chicken or steak tacos, I like to start with the same marinade – a cilantro and lime vinaigrette with a hint of spice and lots of citrus. After a few hours in the acidic and flavor punching bath, meat has no choice but to be tender and juicy. A few minutes on a hot grill, and you’ve got a fab foundation for a great taco.

Shredded Chicken

The choice of taco toppings is endless – sliced avocado, salsa, shredded lettuce, cilantro, cheese, corn salsa, guacamole, chipotle sour cream, diced tomatoes, sauteed onions and peppers….in fact, if you’re hosting a casual party, a taco bar is a great buffet idea! Tonight I’m gonna go with fresh mango salsa and sliced avocado (and probably a little cheese and sour cream too…). If you can’t find good fresh mango, frozen works alright too. It’s not quite as good – but it’s better than no mango salsa.

Mangoes Mango Salsa

Cilantro & Garlic Tacos

  • 1 1/2 Lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 C. cilantro and garlic marinade
  • Flour tortillas
  • Mango salsa
  • Sliced avocado
  • Shredded cheddar
  • Sour cream

Marinate chicken breasts in marinade for at least 6 hours. Remove from marinade and grill on medium for 15 minutes, or until cooked through. Allow meat to rest for 10 minutes, then shred with 2 forks.

Warm tortillas on the grill for about 1 minute per side. Alternately, heat them in the microwave for 30 seconds.

To assemble, place a scoopful of chicken on to warm taco shell. Top with mango salsa, 2 slices of avocado, a Tablespoon of cheese, and a small spoonful of sour cream.

Cilantro & Garlic Marinade

  • 1/2 onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 jalapeno, halved
  • Lime zest and juice, from 1 lime
  • Handful fresh cilantro
  • 1/3 C. orange juice
  • 1/3 C. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. cumin

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until everything is smooth and combined. Marinate chicken for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight. Makes enough marinade for 6 chicken breasts.

Mango Salsa

  • 1 mango, diced
  • 1/4 C. red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
  • Handful cilantro, chopped
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • Pinch of salt, pepper, and cumin

Combine all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

The Lighter Side of Football Fare

football fare

Despite my team being out of it, the NFL playoffs have made for some exciting TV the last couple weekends. And for me, good football pairs nicely with good food (and cold beer). But the go-to grub for a football spread tends to be fried, fattening, and void of some key food groups. If celery with ranch is the only vegetable on your spread, then your spread needs some work! And don’t worry – I’m not about to spring some lentils or tofu on you. And I wouldn’t even call this “healthy” food – it’s just good food….that won’t be hanging on your thighs/gut after the Super Bowl! So here is the spread – grilled Teryaki Chicken, Cucumber Boats, Baked Spinach & Artichoke Dip, Grilled Corn & Avocado Salsa, and Buffalo Chicken Sausage in Wonton Cups.

Teryaki Chicken

We gotta have some wings. But they don’t have to be fried, and they don’t have to be dripping in a sauce whose main ingredient is butter (although, we will use some of that sauce towards the end of the post). Chicken is a clean slate for flavor – if you want flavor, you need to add it yourself. I started with wings and legs in a brine – salty and sweet, a brine will infuse the meat with moisture and ensure the end result is super tender. It’s ideal to brine the meat over night. But even 2 to 3 hours in a brine is better than none at all.

brining chicked

Take the chicken out of the brine about an hour before cooking time. This gives the meat a chance to rest, and for your dry rub to get comfy. The rub needs to compliment the finishing glaze – which for me is teryaki. So a simple rub of salt, pepper, and Chinese Five Spice will do. Coat the meat, and rub it in good. Let the meat hang out in the fridge, uncovered, until it’s time to cook.

Speaking of cooking – it’s time to fire up the grill! I use a gas grill because of easy/quick start up and very little clean up. If you are using charcoal, put your coals only on one side – we want to be set up for indirect heat. I start my grill on high and let it warm up. Then I turn 1 burner off, and 1 burner to medium-high. Put the chicken over the off burner, and leave it be. It will need to be turned eventually – but don’t mess with it too much. I’d say every 15 minutes, give the pieces a turn. If you are impatient, or just really don’t have the time – go ahead and grill them on direct heat. But the indirect method will yield a crispy skin and tender meat – simulating a fried wing, without all the fat.

Once the meat is thinking about divorcing itself from the bones, it’s time for the glaze. Turn your burner back on, and up to about medium (or just move the meat over your coals, if using a charcoal grill). Brush the wings and legs with the teryaki glaze, and allow it to cook for a minute I like the glaze to get cooked on, with some crispy bits – but be careful, the glaze can burn.

teryaki grilled wings

  • 6 wings
  • 6 legs
  • Brine
  • Dry rub
  • Teryaki glaze (store bought)

Brine

  • 4 C. Water
  • 1/4 C. Salt
  • 2 T. Soy sauce
  • 1/4 C. sugar
  • 1 tsp. Pepper
  • 1 tsp. Tabasco sauce

Combine all ingredients. Whisk until sugar and salt are dissolved. Pour over chicken and seal in a zip-lock bag. Allow to marinate at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.

Dry Rub

  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. Chinese 5 Spice

Cucumber Boats

cucumber boats

If you ever look at Pinterest, then you have seen this recipe from Bite Delite. It looks fresh and flavorful, so I’m giving it a try! It seems an easy addition to our spread. I made some minor changes though. First, I added a little garlic infused olive oil. I aslo added a squeeze of lime juice. I also assembled the boats a few hours in advance. I put the unsliced, filled cucumbers on a plate, and wrapped tightly with plastic wrap. This helped to keep the filling in place when I sliced them.

Spinach & Artichoke Dip

spinach & artichoke dip

WARNING! This dip may vanish in front of your eyes. For real…If you are having a big crowd, you may want to double up the recipe. If you have friends like mine (you know who you are!) you may want to triple it. And how is this “lightened” up, you may ask? Yes, it has mayonnaise and full fat sour cream….but is has twice the amount of vegetables, and half the amount of parmesan cheese as the Joy of Cooking Baked Artichoke Dip recipe.

Make sure that you don’t buy “marinated” artichoke hearts. They are swimming in olive oil, and we don’t want that for this recipe. I buy the quarters, and rough chop them. But feel free to leave them in quarters, if you prefer. This is easily made in advance, just leave the bread crumbs off until ready to bake.

  • 1/4 C. onion, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 C. Mayonnaise
  • 1/2 C. Sour cream
  • 1 14 oz. can artichoke hearts, chopped
  • 1 10 oz. package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1/2 C. Parmesan, grated
  • 1/4 C. Panko breadcrumbs

Saute onion in olive oil until softened. Add in garlic, and saute for another 2 minutes. Combine Mayo, sour cream, onion mixture, artichokes, spinach, and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into a greased baking dish. Top with bread crumbs. Spray lightly with cooking spray. Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes. Dip should be bubbly and starting to brown. Serve with crackers, tortilla chips, or warm pita bread.

Grilled Corn & Avocado Salsa

grilled corn & avocado salsa

This is a salsa that I like to make on Taco Night (AKA Margarita Thursday). It’s so colorful, and pops with flavor – the perfect topping to a grilled steak taco….man, I should make some grilled steak tacos soon…. But I always end up with too much of this stuff and find myself hovering over the bowl, with a bag of tortilla chips – it’s too good to let it go to waste! So  today I’m skipping the tacos, and going straight to hover mode.

Feel free to change things up – add some jalapeno, different colored peppers, maybe roasted garlic? But don’t make too much – you don’t want leftovers. Avocados just don’t jive the next day – the texture changes, the browning sets in, and they just start to get funky.

  • 4 ears of corn
  • 1 orange bell pepper, quartered (ribs and seeds removed)
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced into thick rings
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Cilatro
  • Lime juice
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, cumin to taste

Brush corn, onion and pepper with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill until corn is cooked through and other veggies are soft. Allow to cool. Cut the corn off of the cob and rough chop onion and pepper.

In a bowl combine corn, onion, pepper, tomatoes, avocado and cilantro. Squeeze the juice of two limes directly into the bowl and drizzle with olive oil (1 – 2 T.). Season with salt, pepper and cumin. Mix thoroughly. Refrigerated until ready to serve.

Buffalo Chicken Sausage in Wonton Cups

Buffalo Chicken Sausage Wonton cups

A few years back my mother-in-law made these Bob Evans sausage cups for a Thanksgiving appetizer. They flew off the plate. But they were a little on the heavy and salty side. I’m using the Bob Evans concept, but I’m lightening it up a little. First change, I’m not using Bob Evans sausage….sorry Bob.

  • 24 Wonton wrappers
  • 1 lb. chicken sausage, removed from casings (spicy, if desired)
  • 1 C. Mexican blend, shredded cheese
  • 1/4 C. yogurt Ranch dressing
  • 1/4 C. buffalo hot sauce (Frank’s)

Lightly spray a mini muffin tin with cooking spray. Line each cup with a wonton skin, to form little cups. Bake at 350F for 5 minutes, until lightly browned.

Saute sausage, breaking into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Drain. Combine cooked sausage, Ranch dressing, buffalo sauce, and cheese. Scoop filling into wonton cups, and bake at 350F for 10 minutes (or until bubbly).

Southwest Chicken Salad

southwest chicken salad

I have some things in my fridge that are nearing their eat-or-trash date – chicken breasts, leftover cornbread, cilantro, and a bag of mixed greens….I have a can of black beans and some salsa…I’m thinking about a Southwest style chicken salad!

If you ever get the opportunity to go to The Yard House – you MUST try their BBQ chicken entree salad (and a yard of LeftHand Milk Stout….). BBQ chicken, fresh avocado, thinly sliced and fried onions, roasted pasilla peppers –  the mound of toppings almost completely hides the lettuce. But there IS lettuce, so technically it IS a salad – even though it’s more like a borrito sans tortilla shell. Inspired by the Yard House and the items in my fridge – here is my take on a Southwest Chicken Salad.

Citrus & Cilantro vinaigrette

  • cilantro, handful
  • 2 T. citrus  zest
  • 1/4 C. citrus juice (lime and Meyer lemon)
  • 2 T. of  sour cream
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/4 – 1/2 C. olive oil
  • 1 T. Agave nectar (or honey)
  • 1/2 tsp. each salt, pepper, cumin

In a blender, combine cilantro, lime, garlic, agave and sour cream. Add olive oil slowly until desired consistency. Season to taste. Set aside

Black Bean & Corn Salsa

  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 small can corn, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 Cup red onion diced
  • Salt, pepper, cumin
  • 1 – 2 T. Citrus & Cilantro vinaigrette

Saute onion and pepper until softened. Combine beans, corn, onion and pepper mixture. Season to taste, stir in vinaigrette.

Chicken Breast

  • thin sliced chicken breast
  • cajun seasoning

Season chicken and grill until cooked through. Rest for 10 minutes then slice into this strips

Onion Frizzles

  • red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 3 Tablespoons corn starch
  • salt and pepper
  • canola oil

Mix flour and corn starch. Toss onions in flour mixture, shake off excess. Fry in canola oil until brown and crispy. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Cornbread croutons

  • leftover cornbread, cubed
  • 3 – 4 Tablespoons olive oil
  • salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder

In a bowl combine olive oil and seasonings. Toss cubes in oil. Spread onto sheet pan and bake at 400F for 20 minutes.

Assembly

Toss mixed greens and croutons in a few tablespoons of dressing. Once evenly coated, distribute onto serving plates. Arrange toppings in a circle, with an opening in the middle. Add one scoop each of salsa and black bean salsa. Slice avocado (1/2 per serving) and fan out. Fan out chicken. Drizzle chicken and avocado with spoonful of dressing. Put onion frizzles in the center. Sprinkle with pepper jack cheese and cilantro.

Not Your Kids’ Grilled Cheese

When you think grilled cheese, what comes to mind? White sandwich bread? A little butter? Processed American cheese? Oh good – then your expectations are real low. And do I have a treat for you – I add bacon! Ok, it’s a little better than that…

The complete recipe, with measurements can be found at the bottom of the post

What makes a plain grilled cheese sandwich a good grilled cheese sandwich is shredded cheese and fresh bread. The possibilities of cheesy combos is endless, but the foundation is the same – good bread, good cheese. Tonight we are having avocado, bacon, and tomato on country white bread.

On a whim, I decided to dehydrate the tomatoes. I already had the oven on low (I was making spicy Chex mix to take to a friend’s party) and decided to pop in the sliced tomatoes. I can’t tell you exactly how long they cooked for….about an hour on 300F. Could you skip this step? Of course. You could also peel open a slice of plastic cheese and be halfway done ;)
dehydrated tomatoes

Choose your favorite cheeses to shred. I used equal parts sharp white cheddar and pepper jack, and a handful of fresh parmesan. Colby jack, mozzarella, gouda, Swiss – all would work well here. You will need 2 to 4 ounces per sandwich, depending on how cheesy you want it.

For ease of turning and eating, I like to mash the avocado and spread it on the bread like butter. Add a little lime to keep it fresh, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

avocado

Slice your bread about 3/4 inch thick, and get all your ingredients prepared. I slather a generous amount of avocado on each slice, followed by the tomatoes, bacon, and finally the mound of cheese. Remember that this will melt down – so don’t be shy. If you are reading this post in advance, it’s best to wrap assembled sandwiches in plastic, and keep them in the fridge for an hour (or more). This will help the ingredients mingle and hold together during the cooking process. If you don’t have extra time, add more cheese….because you are likely to lose some to the frying pan.

assembly

Preheat a nonstick skillet on medium, and spray lightly with cooking spray (or just use the same pan that you cooked the bacon in, like I did. Drained of most of the fat, of course). Coat one side of the sandwich (the one closest to the cheese) with a thin layer of softened butter, and put it butter side down into the skillet. Check your bread often, you want it golden and crisp. Coat the top side with butter, so that it’s ready for flipping.

grilling

Once your bottom bread is to the desired color, flip your sandwich over. Now just wait patiently….but if the sandwich seems to be cooking too quickly (bread is browning, cheese isn’t melting) lower the heat and put a loose fitting lid over the sandwich for a few minutes.

grilled cheese

  • 4 slices bread, cut 3/4 inch thick
  • 4 – 8 ounces cheese, grated
  • 4 slices thick cut bacon, cooked
  • One avocado, mashed
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Freshest tomato, sliced and dehydrated (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Butter

Spread mashed avocado onto each slice of bread. Layer tomato, bacon, and cheese onto one slice of bread per sandwich. Top with second slice of bread. Coat top slice of bread (closest to cheese) with thin layer of butter. Grill in a preheated non-stick pan until golden. Butter second slice of bread and flip. Remove from heat once both sides are golden and cheese is melted through.