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From the Kitchen

Happy Hour How-To: Hawaiian Mai Tai

July 11, 2015

maitai

Let’s face it: there are days where a glass of wine just won’t do. Looking for something stronger or a bit more special? Celebrating the weekend beachside or poolside? Break out your bartending skills and whip up a mai tai.

Wind down from your work week island-style with this cocktail straight from Hawaii. Here’s how >>

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Your New Fave Sip: Skinny Margaritas

May 7, 2015

San Diego goes all out for Cinco de Mayo. We are on the border, after all! But when Tuesday rolled around, I was not all about battling the crowds at my favorite local Mexican joints.

Keeping in line with my resolution to host more dinner parties at our house, we opted for a homemade Taco Tuesday celebration at our casa, complete with our famous build-your-own carne asada taco bar, chips, salsa, bean dip, and a few rounds of skinny margaritas.

skinnymarg

Despite my award-winning sweet tooth (yea, if there were awards, I’m a winner!), I am not a sweet drink fan. I find many margarita recipes and mixes just too overly sugary and syrupy– blehhh.

Instead of mixing up some Cuervo or pre-made Costco mix, we broke the margarita down into its key elements.

The result? A light, refreshing skinny margarita you can sip guilt-free (which just means more room for guac. Yes, please!)

margs

All You’ll Need:

  • Tequila
  • Limes
  • Sea Salt
  • Raw Agave Nectar
  • Sparkling Water
  • Crushed Ice
  • Cayenne pepper or muddled jalapeños (optional)

Simple Steps:

  1. Rub the rim of each margarita glass or short tumbler with a wedge of lime & turn over onto a plate of salt to coat the rim (Optional- this is for you, salt lovers! Want spice? Add cayenne pepper to the salt mixture!)
  2. Squeeze fresh juice of one lime into each prepared glass
  3. Pour 1 shot of tequila into each glass
  4. Fill glass with ice
  5. Pour in sparkling water until filled to top (about 1/2 cup depending on glass size)
  6. Drizzle with agave nectar, about 1 teaspoon or to taste
  7. Stir gently with a straw, add a lime wedge for garnish, and fiesta!

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 ¡Olé! 

Wellness Wednesday: The Best Darn Snickerdoodle Cookie

March 11, 2015

Yea, this counts as a wellness post. Let’s be honest- I am definitely not over here munching kale and sipping green juice all the time. I’m a firm believer baking is good for the soul, and a warm plate of cookies is my favorite gift to pass on and add some sweetness to someone else’s day.

My friends, sometimes we must get out the flour, roll up our sleeves, and whip the eggs, butter, and sugar into submission. And there really is no better smell than fresh-baked cookies in your oven.

So here it is: my go-to cookie recipe. It’s simple, quick, and doesn’t require any chilling of the dough first. Soft, puffy, deliciously cinnamon-ey snickerdoodle cookies, coming right up!

The-BEST-Snickerdoodle-Cookies-2

image via Sally’s Baking Addiction

Recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Cookies:

  • 1 cup of butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 and 1/3 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (I dumped in close to 3- love me some cinnamon!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt

Topping:

  • Swirl some cinnamon & sugar together on a plate or shallow bowl. While measuring here isn’t as important, I used about 1/4 cup of sugar to 2 tsp. of cinnamon.

Let’s Bake!

  1. Turn on some feel-good music (country or Michael Bublé for me) and pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, use a mixer with paddle attachment to cream the butter on medium until smooth. Add sugar on medium speed and mix until fluffy and light in color.
  3. Add in vanilla and egg. Continue mixing until blended, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed.
  4. In another bowl (medium size), whisk together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, cinnamon, & salt.
  5. With mixer running on LOW speed, (or watch that flour will fly, leaving your kitchen counter and yoga pants looking like a white Christmas- oops) slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in three parts. Dough will be thick & heavy! Mix until just blended, and don’t be afraid to get a little dirty and squeeze the rest of the dough together by hand.
  6. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Grab your bowl of cinnamon/sugar topping. Munch a piece of that cookie dough (it’s divine).
  7. Pinch about 2 tablespoons of cookie dough together and roll into a ball. Roll the ball in the topping mixture to coat, and set on the baking sheet. Lightly press down to flatten the cookie slightly- these will get super puffy!
  8. Bake for 11-13 minutes, until edges just barely begin to turn golden. No judgments if you end up eating all the cookie dough before you even get them in the oven.
  9. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Pass on a few to your family, roommates, or your local police department (speaking from experience, they LOVE these!) and enjoy!

My real life photo, because we ate them too fast to stage them:

cookies

What are your recipe go-to’s?

Gal-entine’s Day Dinner Party

February 10, 2015

There are few things I love more than good conversation over a good meal– unless you add some baked brie and a glass of champagne or two into the equation. Let’s face it ladies, (and gentlemen too!) Valentine’s Day isn’t all roses, chocolates, and romance. Sometimes, you just need some time to share the love with the leading ladies in your life.

Making good on my 2015 goal to cook more, I gathered the blogger babes crew at my house last Saturday for a little Gal-entine’s Dinner Party.

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I decided to keep the decor simple, stringing up a couple garlands I had lying around the house, and set the table with a simple vase of white tulips and adorable heart napkins I found at Target. I opted for gold paper plates for appetizers, cutting back on the amount of dishes and clean-up and easing the transition from cocktail hour to dinner.

gal_cheers

I love making my guests at home by immediately offering them a bite to eat and a drink. Before arrival, I set up a makeshift bar with glasses, water, an assortment of wines, champagne, and a list of options hidden in the fridge so I could focus on finishing dinner prep as they sipped, munched, and mingled.

We toasted to the night with a simple antioxidant champagne cocktail:

  1. Pour an inch or two of tart cherry juice into each champagne flute (I used Trader Joe’s juice)
  2. Drop in a spoonful of pomegranate seeds
  3. Top with bubbly and enjoy! (My favorite pick: La Marca prosecco)

While I don’t believe I need to justify sipping champagne, this easy cocktail packs a healthy punch as well. It’s the perfect combination of sweet, crisp, and tart while boasting a heavy dose of Vitamin C and antioxidants.

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The dinner menu of the night: baked brie with apricot preserves, roasted brussel sprouts with lemon and garlic, and healthy chicken parmesan with homemade tomato basil sauce.

Dinner is never complete without a sweet! We finished off the evening with decadent red velvet brookies topped with vanilla ice cream. This is a recipe you need to make now. I’m not even a brownie or a chocolate fan (yes, I’m still human) and these have me hooked! Half cookie, half red velvet brownie- yes please! (My only tweaks: I added crushed Hershey Hugs to the cookie mix and omitted red food dye in the cookie dough.)

gal1

Quick tips to let your hostess-self enjoy the party:

  • Prep what you can the day before. Clean up the house, grocery shop, and go over your recipes. See what you can chop or bake a day ahead.
  • Collaborate! Don’t be afraid to ask guests to bring something to share. I love the idea of a potluck. Jess whipped up a delicious salad, Andy brought her famous beastmode bean dip and Kelli supplied cheese and crackers.
  • Dinner doesn’t have to be ready & waiting when guests arrive! Pump the jams, pour a beverage, and let them dig into the cheese plate to curb hangry pangs while you finish the cooking.

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Dinner parties aren’t about fancy presentation, perfection, and stress. At the end of the night, nobody is going to remember Pinterest-worthy presentation and fancy-ness. Keeping the night simple allows not only the guests to feel comfortable and at home, it lets the hostess relax and enjoy the night as well.

When our final rounds of Cards Against Humanity dwindled down and the wine bottles emptied, I forgot the brie practically exploded and melted all over the oven (we ate it all anyway), I didn’t care the dishes didn’t all match and that I had to pull extra chairs in from around the house. All I remember was the good food and good laughter with some darn good company. Happy Gal-entine’s Day!

Wellness Wednesday: Healthy Spicy Turkey Chili

January 14, 2015

There’s nothing like a warm, hearty pot of chili bubbling away on the stove when the evenings grow colder.

Contrary to popular belief, it actually does get COLD in San Diego! A string of below-40 degree nights left me craving something hot and comforting for dinner. While I’m not a huge fan of soup, a homemade chili seemed like the perfect dinner.

Easy, healthy Chili recipe

Using some general chili-making guidelines from my mom, I whipped up this dish  using spices, canned goods, and ground turkey I had in my kitchen from a grocery run earlier in the week.

The great thing about chili is that you can easily customize it according to your tastes and cravings. Chili powder and red pepper flakes adds heat while ground turkey made this a filling, protein-packed dinner.

Canned tomatoes bring more cancer-fighting lycopene to the table than regular tomatoes. Opt for an organic, no-salt-added can (love me some Trader Joe’s!) to keep this dish as healthy as can be.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. of 99% fat free ground turkey (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 8oz. can of pure tomato sauce
  • 8-12 oz. can of no salt added chopped tomatoes, undrained
  • 15 oz. can of kidney beans, undrained
  • 1 packet McCormick Chili Spices (I used the Hot version)
  • Pinch of chili powder, pinch of red pepper flakes for more heat

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet, fully cook the ground turkey in the pan on medium-high heat.
  2. Add chopped onions and cook until just beginning to turn translucent.
  3. Dump in the cans of tomato sauce, tomatoes, beans, and spice packet. Gently stir, bringing to a low boil.
  4. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.
  5. Top with a dollop of non-fat plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream for added protein, and serve!

The best part of this recipe? The leftovers. I am all about leftover chili for lunch. To be honest, I think it tastes better the next day. This recipe also freezes easily so you can have dinner in a pinch when a busy week strikes.

*I’m a spicy fan and prefer my chili to pack a full blaze. To reduce heat, omit the extra red pepper flakes & chili powder. Opt for the regular, low-sodium McCormick Chili Spice packet for a milder dish.