November 21, 2013

Quinoa Black Bean Burrito Bowls

I recently made burritos for the first time following a recipe from the October 2013 issue of Family Circle.  While they were very tasty, the tortillas felt unnecessary and I say that as a carb-lover.  So I made the recipe again, but this time a burrito bowl or a naked burrito as they would call it at Qdoba.

Both mini sweet peppers and regular bell peppers work well in this recipe.  The original recipe calls for green onions to be cooked with the peppers, but I prefer regular onions and to use green onions raw on top of my burrito bowl.

These burrito bowls are very customizable with quinoa and the black bean pepper mixture just serving as a base.  I like to add mild salsa, shredded cheese and avocado.  Chris adds fresh tomato and spices his up with hot salsa.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Ingredients (4 servings)
    Burrito Bowl

    • 2/3 cup quinoa, rinsed
    • 1 1/3 cups water
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 2 large bell peppers (any color), diced
    • 1 cup chopped onion
    • 1 tablespoon chili powder (or taco seasoning)
    • 15 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
    • 1 tablespoon lime juice
    Optional Toppings

    • salsa or pico de gallo
    • grated cheddar cheese
    • sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
    • diced tomatoes
    • hot sauce or sriracha
    • sliced avocado or guacamole
    • green onions, chopped
    • In a small saucepan, bring quinoa and water to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium low and simmer until water is absorbed, 10 to 12 minutes. Set aside for 5 minutes, uncovered.
    • After quinoa has finished cooking, heat oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add peppers, onions and chili powder; cook 5 minutes. Stir in bean and lime juice, cooking 1 minute more. Remove from heat and stir in the quinoa.
    • Divide quinoa black bean mixture among four bowls, then add desired toppings.

    Recipe adapted from: Black Bean and Quinoa Burritos - Family Circle, October 2013.
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    November 07, 2013

    Basil-Infused Longan-Lime Popsicles

    As I dealt with snow issues at work this week in South Dakota, I was reminded of just how different the climate is here in South Florida.  For my old CSA in Wisconsin, it's week 20 and members are receiving their final summer share this week.  Here in Miami, it's week 1 and the CSA season doesn't end until late May.

    Highs are still in the 80s, so I was excited to try a popsicle recipe provided by my new CSA, which utilized both basil and longan fruit from my week 1 box.

    As you can see below, Chianti and I were both excited to check out our first Florida CSA box.  Inside, we found arugula, basil, salad mix, tarragon, leeks, lemongrass, cucumbers, turnips and my favorite eyeball fruit - longan.

    My CSA's description of longan having the look of peeled grapes is probably more appetizing than my eyeball description :)  A storage tip I wasn't aware of until I read the CSA newsletter is that longan fruit can be stored in the freezer, whole with the peel on, which is handy.

    I've only attempted popsicles once before and it was a failure, which is embarrassing considering that popsicles are pretty dang easy to make.  This popsicle how-to-guide from Epicurious was really helpful this time around.

    Two things I did wrong last time were attempting to insert the sticks immediately after filling the molds (you need to wait 2 hours) and running the molds under water for too long which caused the sticks to come out of the popsicles.  My popsicle mold is from Progressive and now that I understand how to make popsicles, I'd recommend it :)

    This was my first time attempting to photograph popsicles, since my last batch was a disaster, and I discovered it's not easy.  My popsicles were melting really quickly because I was too anxious to eat a popsicle to take Epicurious' advice on a second freezing which helps with that issue.

    I love the flavor of these popsicles, which taste predominantly like lime with a hint of basil and a delicious sweetness from the longan fruit.  With year-round warm temps I anticipate many popsicle flavor variations in my future.

    Basil-Infused Longan-Lime Popsicles 
    Prep Time: 20 minutes

    Ingredients (6 popsicles)
    • 1/3 cup water
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • 5 large basil leaves
    • 1 1/2 lbs longan
    • 1 lime (juice & zest)
    • In a small saucepan, combine water, sugar and basil leaves. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
    • Pour basil syrup through fine-mesh sieve into a blender. Discard basil. Add longans, lime zest and juice and blend until smooth. Pour mixture into popsicle molds. Freeze for 2 hours, then insert sticks and continue freezing overnight.
    • The next day, run the molds until warm water for 20 seconds or so until the popsicles can be removed. Transfer popsicles to plastic bags or a plastic container layered with wax paper and freeze again for at least 30 minutes. Store for up to one month.
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    November 06, 2013

    Pear-Gingerbread Upside-Down Cake

    This upside-down cake is perfect for the holiday season.  It combines fall fruit with gingerbread, which is a holiday staple.  Plus, I think it looks quite nice when flipped upside-down and would present well at a party.

    The recipe, which comes from Taste of Home, doesn't specify what type of pear to use.  So I used bosc, my favorite pear for baking.  I was storing the pears in a ceramic fruit bowl I bought because I'm trying to prove to Chris that it wasn't a worthless kitchen purchase :)

    This cake is quite easy to make, with just two layers needed.  The first layer has walnuts, pears, brown sugar and melted butter, which is topped with the gingerbread cake batter.

    I was amazed at how easily the cake flipped out, and I was thankful it fit perfectly on one of my large square dinner plate.  I wish I was as lucky when flipping pineapple upside-down cake.

    This cake is perfect when topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.   


    November 03, 2013

    Cruising to The Bahamas

    We returned early this morning from our first cruise.  It was a great experience and we're looking forward to a longer cruise next time.  Being first-timers, we booked a very short 2-night cruise (about 36 hours) to The Bahamas on the Carnival Glory to determine if we liked cruising.

    In Wisconsin, I knew of very few people who had been on a cruise ship and the vast majority were over the age of 50.  However, here in Miami cruising is very popular among all ages.  It's really handy living so close to the Port of Miami.  We disembarked our ship at 8:00 am and were back home at 8:30 am.
    The process of boarding the boat was slightly cumbersome, but definitely no worse than an airport.  The first line was to get our passports checked.  Then we stood in line to get our luggage scanned and then one final line to get our room keys.

    We quickly dropped our luggage in the cabin and headed out to explore the boat while it was still in port.  I get extremely motion sick, so I wanted to get the lay of the land before the boat started moving.  As it turns out, I only felt queasy a few times during the cruise which was quickly remedied by finding fresh air or laying down in our cabin.

    Due to the brevity of our cruise, we had just one port stop which was in Nassau.  Reading port reviews on (a first-time cruiser's best friend), words used to describe Nassau include dirty, poor and raw. 

    Even knowing this, Chris and I were still taken aback.  Walking the streets of Nassau reminded us of our time in Egypt.  Locals harassing you to buy their goods and services, and not taking no for an answer.  Our cruise ship in the background of the photo below is a reminder of how heavily dependent The Bahamas is on tourism.

    I'm so thankful I read reviews on TripAdvisor too because that's how I found Bites of Nassau Food Tasting & Cultural Walking Tour with Tru Bahamian Food Tours.  Chris and I both loved the tour and would highly recommend it!

    We visited seven places on the tour and the food at each stop was superb.  Our favorite was Pepper Pot Grill & Juice Bar, where Chris had jerk chicken and I had steamed cabbage (the guide was awesome at providing vegetarian options!).  We also had rice and beans, a fried plantain and freshly squeezed tropical fruit juice at Pepper Pot.

    My favorite part of cruising is how easy it is to relax.  We had the option of hanging out on our cabin balcony as we cruised through the Atlantic Ocean, however there are places all over the ship both inside and outside to have a drink and read a book, or just people watch. 

    Cruising isn't perfect though.  Our cabin was near a bar that blasted music into the early morning hours, which felt like sleeping in a frat house during a party.  However, the positives definitely outweighed the negatives and now we just need to decide where to go on our next cruise!