Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Foodiness

Archive for the tag “Holidays”

WIAW: Memorial Day Picnic!

I’ve neglected What I Ate Wednesdays for the past couple of weeks, but now I’m back–with a recipe! Once again, thanks to Jen from Peas & Crayons for hosting!

So, obviously Monday was Memorial Day. And originally, I was hoping to have a party or a small cookout or something. But my lack of planning coupled with my friends’ work schedules meant that wasn’t going to happen this year. But I still wanted to do something fun and summery to end the long weekend. Kevin got off work at six on Monday night, so I decided to throw together a fun, light, healthy Memorial Day picnic!

I know, I’m freaking adorable. This meal was a mix of home-cooked and store-bought, which is my kind of combo. We started with homemade bruschetta and crostinis (check out my recipe for that here). Still on my pesto kick from the day before, I also whipped up a big batch of pesto pasta salad! (Recipe to follow.) It’s a great way to use fresh pesto and it lightens up an otherwise mayo-laden picnic staple. Personally, I prefer the basil-y freshness to gloppy mayonnaise.

I bought some prepared chicken leg quarters from the supermarket for an entrée, though we barely even made a dent in the chicken after all the bruschetta and pasta salad! For dessert, I bought some fresh mangoes, apricots and blueberries–so glad summer fruit is finally in season! I chopped up the mango and apricot and mixed all the fruit together with some sweetened lime juice to make a citrusy-sweet fruit salad. (Oops, was that a recipe?)

I still wanted something really dessert-y, so I baked cookies. But I cheated. I’m not much of a baker, and I don’t have a working mixer, so I was taking the easy route out on this one–I wanted a cookie mix. Well, who knew that it is shockingly hard to find a cookie (or brownie) mix without trans fats? (Be careful–the package can say 0g trans fats as long as it’s less than 1g. Check the ingredients list for partially hydrogenated oils, which equal trans fats.)

But lo and behold, in the refrigerated section, was my savior: Nestle Tollhouse Break and Bake cookies. Both the chocolate chip and the chocolate chunk are trans fat-free! Naturally, given those options, I went with the chocolate chunk. And so, we had a semi-homemade, chocolatey end to our meal.

And what’s a good picnic without some wine? So if you’re keeping track, yes, we drank wine out of sippy cups. Yes, I still own sippy cups. Note to self: buy disposable plastic cups.

A nice dry, Spanish rosé seemed like a good picnic wine. It was sufficient.

So, once everything was cooked and ready to go, we packed up our picnic and took it down to a park the next town over, overlooking the lake. Not gonna lie, it was pretty romantic. When I want to bring it, I can bring it.

But really, how can you beat a delicious (mostly) homemade dinner with views like this?

A lovely, relaxing conclusion to a lovely weekend. Then we went home and Kevin, my sister and I proceeded to finish off all two dozen cookies. Yeah, that happened.

Oh, and that recipe I promised:

As often happens with me, I didn’t measure, because I created a huge batch of this. It can obviously be adjusted to make a single portion or enough to serve a whole party. Use as much as you want to create as much as you want. Also, veggie-to-pasta ratios can be purely subjective. Do what you like.

Pesto Pasta Salad

Spiral, shell or other strong, sauce-holding pasta
Chopped red bell pepper
Chopped orange bell pepper
Chopped fresh green beans
Chopped celery
Diced tomato, seeded
1 chopped scallion, white and light green parts only
1 batch of homemade or store-bought pesto (see pesto recipe here)
Fresh mozzarella cheese
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

-Cook pasta according to package directions in lightly salted water.
-While the pasta cooks, chop and prep all veggies and make pesto sauce.
-Once cooked, drain pasta but do not rinse. Let cool in colander or large bowl until room temperature.
-When the pasta is cooled, mix all vegetables, including the scallion, into the pasta
-Dice or tear the mozzarella into the pasta salad.
-Add enough pesto to generously coat all ingredients and give a good basil flavor. Mix well and season with salt and pepper.

This healthy alternative to traditional pasta salad may just become my go-to party dish! The chopping takes some time, but the actual assembly takes no time at all–a great, quick crowd-pleaser. Even Kevin, who doesn’t like pasta salad, couldn’t stop eating this!

Well, there you have it. Happy Memorial Day and Happy What I Ate Wednesday!

Cinco de Mayo-style Steak Fajita Bowls and Homemade Guacamole! (UPDATED)

I said I would post this recipe later in the week, and I wasn’t just holding out–I was waiting to make it perfectly opportune for Cinco de Mayo!  If you’re not doing a big Cinco party, that’s no problem; you can still have a fun, Mexican-themed dinner at home!

I’m talking about yummy (and healthy!) steak fajita bowls with homemade guacamole!  To put these bowls together, you’ll need to start with the following:

Steak Fajita Bowls

1-2 cups Rice (I used brown basmati rice, and it’s great stuff! I’m falling in love with bulk bins.) Use as much as you need for the number of people you have–for 2 people, about a cup of dry rice should be good.  You can also use instant rice.
1 sweet bell pepper (any color, but orange was the pick of the day)
Half a red onion
1-2 cloves fresh garlic
2 small skirt steaks
Steak marinade (Now, you can of course make your own marinade, but, in all honesty, I took a shortcut and used a bottled fajita marinade from Wegmans. I did get one with pretty few ingredients, though–the fewer, the better.)
Salsa (Also purchased this, but not jarred–I got a fresh medium-heat salsa from Wegman’s salsa bar)
Manchego cheese, shredded*
1-2 fresh limes
Jalapenos (optional) (I did not use, Kevin did)
Fresh cilantro (optional) I didn’t use any this time, which is a shock for anyone who knows me and my borderline-obsession with cilantro. I’d recommend it.
Homemade guacamole (recipe below)

*Manchego cheese is a firm Spanish sheep’s milk cheese. It’s nutty and one of my all-time favorites.  However, it can be expensive. So, if you want a similar flavor, you can pick up some fresh Pecorino or, for something different but still fitting, you can get any good Mexican-style cheese, like Monterey jack, cheddar or pepper jack if you like a kick.

First things first, get the steaks marinating. I like to out the steaks in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag with the marinade. Seal the bag and mix it around so the meat is evenly covered in the marinade. Place the bag in a dish or other container and put it in the fridge to marinate while you do everything else.

Next, get water boiling for the rice.  Start with a one-to-one ratio of water to rice–watch it as it cooks, you may have to add more water as it goes.

Meanwhile, slice the pepper and half the onion and mince the garlic. Set aside a bit of the onion (about a teaspoon or two) and dice. Once the water boils, add the diced onion and about a teaspoon or less of the garlic. Add the rice and let it cook approximately 30 minutes.  (This varies depending on the type of rice you use–if it has a package, follow package directions.)  Add juice of half a lime into rice and water as it cooks.

While the rice is cooking, prep your cook surface for the steak–I used my George Foreman since my outdoor grill’s not up and running yet. You can cook the steak however you’d like–grill, pan, oven, broil. Just make sure you get the cooktop (or oven) nice and preheated. If using a grill (indoor or out), preheat to about a medium heat.

Go ahead and prepare the guacamole ahead of time (recipe below).

**Make sure you’re checking on the rice! Once it’s cooked through, fluff with a fork and add more lime juice, stir it in. If using cilantro, chop and add a handful into the cooked rice and stir through.

Now it’s time to get that steak on the grill! Take the steak out of the bag, and place on the grill or cooktop. Grill the steak on medium heat for about 3-5 minutes per side (depending on the level of doneness you like.) If using a George Foreman, grill about 5-7 minutes total. Remove from heat and put steaks on a plate. Let it rest for at least 10 minutes. Once rested, slice steak into bite-sized strips.

Get a frying or sautee pan hot on the stove with a little bit of oil. Add the peppers, onions and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Sweat the vegetables in the oil until just tender-crisp. Add some lime juice and sautee with the vegetables. Once they’re tender-crisp, remove from heat.

Now, time to assemble! Start by putting a scoop or two of rice in a bowl. Top with veggies and steak, then add all the fixins’: salsa, guacamole and jalapenos. Shred Manchego cheese over the top and sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Delicioso! Now this is a fiesta!

Homemade Guacamole

I have a few secrets about my guacamole that I will share with you. First off, I use dried spices in my guac–dried garlic and dried onion. I find that the fresh, raw garlic and onion flavor is too strong and offputting in the guacamole and kind of overwhelms everything else. Using those ingredients dried still gives the flavor without being overbearing.

Instead of adding freshly diced tomatoes and other various seasonings, I add a tablespoon or two of prepared salsa (whichever I’m using in my dish.) This way, you get tomato, onion, cilantro jalapenos and whatever other flavors are in the salsa. Using a nice chunky, fresh salsa is best. Sometimes, when using jarred salsas, the flavor is there, but the salsa is very thick and red, and the two colors (red and green) mix to create a sometimes-offputting brownish hue.

Also, I use one spice that seems a little unexpected in a guacamole–just a pinch of lemon pepper. You don’t have to use it, but I love the flavor it adds.

Anyway, you’ll need:

1/2 a fresh avocado (a full avocado if making this for a crowd)
1-2 tbsp prepared salsa
Juice of 1/4 to 1/2 of a lime
Dried garlic
Dried onion powder or dried diced onion
Pinch of lemon pepper seasoning
1-2 tsp Chopped cilantro

To halve an avocado, take a large knife and cut along the middle of the avocado, along the outside. Avocados have a huge pit in the middle, so you have to cut around it. Twist the two halves to separate. Hit the knife into the pit with a bit of force and twist to remove. Scoop the avocado flesh out of the skin and mash with a fork. Add lime juice to soften and keep from oxidizing (turning brown.) Once mashed, add salsa and continue to mix/mash to get the desired consistency. Add spices and mix, tasting as you go. Add any salt and pepper and adjust spices if necessary. Mix in chopped cilantro, add a bit more lime juice and serve.

*To store leftover guacamole or avocado, sprinkle some diced red onion over the top, seal in a bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge. The onion helps prevent oxidation and keeps the avocado fresh and green! When you’re ready to serve again, either brush off the onion or mix it into your guac.*

This makes a fun, healthy and oh-so-tasty dinner any night of the week, but it’s especially fun for a Mexican-inspired Cinco de Mayo meal. If you’re really feeling the Cinco spirit, go check out my post on fun margaritas to pair with your meal. Or just pair it with a citrusy, summery beer like I did!

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Post Navigation

In the kitchen with Kath

Old favorites...New discoveries. Fresh and easy!

Heike Herrling

...but it tasted good

Danny's Kitchen

Food that creatively inspires...

Chicken Soup for the Sole

Cooking with no one but a pan and a plan.

Kicked,Bitten, & Scratched

writings from the mind and heart of a veterinary technician

Bookery & Cookery

A catalogue of my literary and culinary pursuits and perusals.

...our traveling without moving!...

Not just another WordPress.com site!

Bucket List Publications

Indulge- Travel, Adventure, & New Experiences

Communications & Legal Studies

Keep me posted @ IC Library

Ink-Drained Kvetch

Journalism, media and work in the digital age

Ethical Martini

The home of media ethics and martinis

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is the best place for your personal blog or business site.

Raven Montana B.

The meaning of it all.

%d bloggers like this: