Winter Fruit Salad

I was looking for a new recipe to cook for our company Thanksgiving gathering. This recipe was especially appealing because it required nothing more than pulling out of the fridge at meal time. Since I was working the front desk, this sold me. Additionally, this dish is very visual appealing and vegetarian friendly.

Winter Fruit Salad with Maple Lime Dressing by Julias Album
FullSizeRender (15).jpg2 red apples, cored and diced
2 pears, cored and diced
4 clementine oranges, peeled and separated
3 kiwi fruits, peeled and sliced
½ c. dried cranberries
1 c. pomegranate seeds (one pomegranate)

Dressing
2 T. maple syrup
1 T. fresh lime juice (half lime)

Mix and serve.

Notes:

  • Cut open pomegranate and place in a bowl of water. Poke with fork to loosen seeds. Let it sit for a little bit. Then, peel back pomegranate peel and pull out seeds with fork or fingers. Pour bowl of seeds through strainer to remove water.
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Slow Cooker Taco Soup

My cousin Jeanna is my artistic and fashionista cousin. She helps people design their homes and I wish she was helping me to do so. Why can’t you have a piece of software that shows you what all the things you picked will look like together with your furniture in my new home?

When Jeanna married her husband Jon a few years ago, I jokingly said, “I guess you can’t join this family unless your name starts with a ‘J’.” You see, all my cousins in the Bourek side’s names start with the letter J – Jenny (aka Jen or Jennifer now), Jill, Jeanna, Jodi, and Jackson. Did I mention I also have an aunt Joyce and an uncle Jerry? Little did I know, my then boyfriend Jeremiah would become my husband.

Slow Cooker Taco Soup by Jon and Jeanna Moore
IMG_0112
1 lb. group beef, cooked
1 onion, chopped
1 – 16 oz. can chili beans with liquid
1 – 15 oz. can kidney beans with liquid
1 – 15 oz. can whole kernel corn
1 – 8 oz. can tomato sauce
2 c. water
2 – 14 oz. cans diced tomatoes
1 – 4 oz. can diced green chili peppers
1 package of taco seasoning

Place beef, onion, chili beans, kidney beans, corn, tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, green peppers, and taco seasoning in Crockpot. Cook on low for 8 hours. Pair with tortilla chips for a crunchy finish.

Notes:

  • Jeremiah and I use no salted canned goods and tortilla chip from the health food section. This left our dish a little bland. We topped our soup with a little cheese and fresh cilantro. I think also cooking the meat with the taco seasoning could have made it more flavorful.
  • I also wondered about maybe adding some black beans to the dish.

 

The Dress

I’m sure you all saw the story on the news last week about Alfred Angelo bridal stores closing last week amid bankruptcy. Probably tens of thousands of brides who have shelled out thousands of dollars for dress are now left hanging. As a somewhat resent bride, my heart just sank for these women. I remember the anxiety of dress shopping. First, there is the fear that nothing will fit when you go to try on dresses. I’ve never been a size 5 and bridal dresses are ever smaller than normal stuff you buy in the store. Then, there is the budget. I just go into shock when I see young women setting budgets for dress on “Say Yes to the Dress” at $3,500-$6,000+. For a dress you will wear only once? How much are you spending on the rest of the wedding?

I was very lucky my mom offered to pay for my wedding dress. Jeremiah and I paid for the wedding ourselves. I tell you what, every couple should have to do that. It really makes you think twice about what you are spending your money on and how many people you invite. Even small weddings aren’t cheap. There is food, a DJ, photographer, hair/make-up, favors, and the list goes on and on. I think we had a nice wedding and were we able to pay for it 100% without taking on debt. (We are both Dave Ramsey grads.) It also taught us some very important lessons in saving for a house. Just a little over a year after our big day, we will have the down payment for our dream home.

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Pictures of dresses that didn’t become “The dress”.

Back to the dress. My mom and I went three stores. The first store was Belle Vogue. Going here first was like when we decided to spend the first two days of our honeymoon at the JW San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa before staying at a HomeAway rental. The service at Belle Vogue was amazing, the lighting was great, and the dresses actually came in sizes that I could try on. Our second stop was Natalie M’s. In this store, the service was still good, lighting wasn’t as good, brides had to share the big mirror, and the dresses weren’t quite as nice material. I did really like an Alfredo Angelo dress in this store. Our final stop was David’s Bridal. Anyone who loves anyone should never let a bride go to this store. The service was terrible, the dressing room was too small, and the dresses are very plain.

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Mom, my sister Stephanie, and I when I picked “The Dress”.

At first, I just couldn’t get past the cost of the dress. I work at a nonprofit and this was the first wedding expense we were figuring out. I only showed pictures of me in the dresses to just a couple of people. Everyone awed when they saw me in the dress I ended up picking. I returned to my first two stores to try on my top three favorite picks. The moment I put back on my Stella York, I knew it was the dress.

I know this sounds a little crazy but one of the reasons I liked it was because this dress was handmade in Australia. I knew how well they paid their workers and that my dress was less likely to get caught up in customs. Even then, I nervously waited for a phone call throughout the month of March to tell me my dress was here. Patience isn’t my best virtue so I asked while picking up my bridesmaid dresses. The good news is that it had just arrived in the shipment that day. Since Jeremiah was with me, I scheduled a time to come back later that week and asked a dear friend to join me as my mom lives so far away.

Almost a year and half later, Alfredo Angelo files bankruptcy. I think about all those women who don’t have dresses and are out the tons of money they spent on the dresses. You know best case scenario is that they will get back pennies on the dollar. But it also made me think back to my friend Jen’s wedding.

Jenny and I are friends from college. Roommates by Residence Hall chance, we have lived together in three different places and remained friends (miraculously) for 20 years. God, I feel old as I realize this. Jen officiated my wedding. I was lucky enough to stand up for her 12? years ago. But Jen’s wedding also had a dress fiasco.

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Bridesmaid bonded forever

Jen hired a small local businesswoman to make her dress. This same woman was also making articles of clothing for her mother, bridesmaids, flower girl, ring bearers, and candle lighters. The day before Jen’s wedding, I arrived in small town Nebraska. I went to pick up my dress and my jacket still wasn’t done. I thought this was odd but the seamstress said she’s have everything ready the next morning. The morning of Jen’s wedding, Jen got a call while we were at the hair studio. It was the seamstress. The dresses weren’t ready yet but they would be ready at Noon. Jen left us bridesmaids to go get her hair done at another salon. All five bridesmaids started talking and figured out that three of our dresses weren’t done. When the dresses weren’t at the auditorium at 12:45PM, we deciphered a plan to get and finish them. We are so lucky that Jen has a cousin who owns a sewing machine store. (Thank you small town Nebraska). Two bridesmaids went to get the clothes. The rest of us hopped in a van heading over to her cousin’s house. Luckily, she has three sewing machines in her basement. We also took Jen’s mom and another bridesmaid’s mother as none of us bridesmaids had sewing skills. When the other bridesmaids arrived with the items, we discovered the problem was bigger than we through. The only things that were done was Jen’s dress, the flower girl’s dress, and two bridesmaids’ dresses. My dress was almost completely done. We decided to scrap the jackets and focus on finishing the dresses. One bridesmaid’s dress was literally still in pieces. But first, we had to finish Jen’s mom’s dress so we could send her back to the house to help Jen get ready. The next few hours were a whirlwind in which the boys’ vest became just bow ties. You’d be amazed how good the bridesmaids became with scissors and hand stitching. The bottom of dresses were sergered instead of properly hemmed. But we got it done. And thank goodness because the nicest thing I had packed was a black cardigan and the nearest major city to find something had a home football game so traffic would have been crazy.

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Photo by Joseph Sands Images

I am happy to report, Jen and Brad had a great Muppet themed wedding. In fact, their Muppet character Pez dispensers for kids are the reason Jeremiah and I had Minion Pez dispensers for kids at our wedding. My nephew Brock still talks about those Pez dispensers from Jen’s wedding. The cake was delicious and who could forget every possible flavor of pie. Although I wish I could have been there to help Jen get ready, I hope she had as much as fun as I did at the reception.

Here’s hoping all those brides currently in distress look back on this moment as just a little hiccup in planning the biggest day of their lives. The years of marriage is what’s most important, right?

Today, I share recipe from our wedding cookbook from these dear friends. Since Jen and the kids have allergies, I think you will enjoy this spin on Rice Crispy Treats. It’s corn syrup free.

Brad’s Rice Krispie Bars
1 c. sugar
1 c. peanut butter or Sunbutter
1 c. cane sugar syrup (Lyle’s Golden Syrup)
6 c. Rice Krispies
6 oz. chocolate chips
6 oz. butterscotch chips (optional)

Combine sugar and syrup over a medium heat to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and add peanut butter. Stir until blended. Pour sugar mixture over Rice Krispies. Mix until well coated. Then, spread into a greased 8 x 8 pan. Microwave chips until melted and spread over bars. Refrigerate until set.

Kid-friendly, Mom Approved Pizza

This recipe actually came from Harvesters Nutrition Department. We made it with volunteers during our New Year’s Eve Family Volunteer Day. I told my team, “We should try this recipe before we serve it.” It got a thumbs-up from my entire team.

My husband was a little apprehensive about trying it. He was surprise how much he enjoyed it. In fact, it’s become our go to snack.

Here’s hoping your little ones enjoy making this healthy snack.

FullSizeRender (14)Fruit Pizza by Harvesters Nutrition Service Department
1 flavored rice cake
Greek yogurt
Fruit

Spread yogurt on rice cake and top with fruit.

Notes:

  • We used chocolate and caramel with the volunteers. I like the caramel best.
  • We used vanilla Greek but you can use another flavor to match your fruit. You can also just use regular yogurt.
  • I’ve used bananas, berries (raspberries/strawberries/blueberries), and mangos. Fresh or thawed frozen fruit both work.

Carne Asada

One of the places Jeremiah and I eat out at a lot is Chipotle. On more than one occasion, we have tried to make our own at home. I also was telling Jeremiah about these amazing black beans and rice I had eaten at the Culinary Center of Kansas City. I was convinced they used chicken broth and I could try to replicate the flavor at home.

This was our attempt last week and trying to replicate both these tasty dishes. Although we thought the Carne Asada had really good flavor, making it along with rice, beans, guacamole, and Pico from scratch made quite a mess to clean-up. Sometimes, it’s just easier to go out and stand in line.

FullSizeRender (6)Carne Asade by Show Me the Yummy
2 lb. flank steak
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 T. olive oil
¼ c. orange juice
¼ c. lime juice
¼ c. lemon juice
¼ c. soy sauce
2 T. white vinegar

In a small bowl, mix spices. Then, stir in oil. Rub half of mixture on each side of the steak. Mix together remaining ingredients. Spray Crockpot with nonstick spray. Pour in half of juice mixture. Place in steak and pour over with remaining juice. Cook on low for six hours.

Black Beans by Amber Bourek
8 oz. dry black beans
1 c. low sodium chicken stock
water
½ diced yellow onion
2 crushed garlic cloves
salt
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder

Rise black beans. For beans in sprayed Crockpot. Cover with 1 cup of chicken stock and enough water to cover by two inches. Add in onion, garlic, and seasonings. Cook on high for six – seven hours.

Note:

I put together a few recipes to make this dish. I cooked them for 4 hours. They were still a little hard so I kept cooking them. My husband thinks we should have soaked the beans for 24 hours and then they would have cooked in 3 ½ to 4 hours.

Guacamole

Five weeks ago, I married the love of my life in a small but beautiful ceremony. Although our original plan was to go to St. Kitts. Then, the Zika virus happened. We decided we want to either stay in the states or head up north to Canada. We settled upon San Antonio, Texas. Why? We had never been and read lots of things that said it was a must visit destination.

Jeremiah and I are planners. Unfortunately, wedding planning and out of town travel for work left us heading to San Antonio without a plan. When we arrived, our first stop was a great little restaurant called Magnolia Pancake Haus. OMG – that side order of pancakes was the best pancakes I’ve ever had. It was so good, we went back one more time and even purchased a bottle of their homemade syrup to take home.

All the food we ate on our honeymoon was amazing. We loved the Hearthstone Bakery Café, Tycoon Flats, Franks, Gruene River Mill, and Guenther House. But Boudros Texas Bistro on the Riverwalk makes the most amazing table side guacamole I’ve ever had. And Jeremiah and I thought we love Chipotle’s guac until we tasted this dish. Lucky for us, we were able to find this recipe online. My husband made it two weeks ago for dinner and I’m roasting the ingredients right now so we can have it for dinner with Skinny Chipotle Cilantro Rice and Carne Asada (cooking in the crockpot as I type this post). Note – the secret ingredient here is fruit squeezed orange juice.

IMG_0971Boudro’s Famous Guacamole
1 orange
2 limes
4-6 avocados
1 roma tomato, roasted and diced
2 serrano pepper, roasted, seeded, and diced
4 T. red onion, diced
½ c. fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tsp. sea salt
1 garlic clove, chopped

Squeeze orange and lime juice into a bowl. Scoop out avocados and add to the bowl. Add tomato, peppers, onion, garlic, and cilantro. Fold into avocado. Add salt to taste.

Notes:

  • Results should be more or cut together than mashed. Our server just used the two knifes she cut everything open with.
  • This makes 6-8 serving. Since guacamole gets brown so quickly, we half this recipe.

Turkey Burgers

With just three weeks to the big day, you would think I’d be working on my to-do list. My wonderful fiance is out of town for work and my place feels so quiet. So what’s a girl to do but cook.

Last week, Jeremiah was craving turkey burgers so we pulled out some ground turkey from the freezer to thaw. This Patti LaBelle’s recipe is the best one I’ve ever eaten. Very most and lots of flavor.

IMG_0671Turkey Burger by Patti LaBelle
2 tsp. canola oil
1/8 c. minced onions
1 T. minced parsley
2 tsp. poultry seasoning
2 lb. ground turkey
1 large egg white
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1/2 c. crushed stuffing
salt and pepper

Saute onions, parsley, and seasoning in heated oiled pan. Cool slightly and add to bowl with other ingredients. Grill and serve. Consider making a fat free mayo mix with cranberry jalapeno jelly. It really adds to the flavors in this dish.

Since we didn’t get it made before Jeremiah left, I decided I would cook another recipe with with the ground turkey. I found this one on Pinterest today. It’s OK in taste but fell apart on the George Foreman grill. If I make it again, I think I’ll add an egg white and maybe bake it to see if that helps it keep it’s shape.

FullSizeRender (2)Turkey Burger from Pinterest
1 lb. ground beef
1 avocado, mashed
1 chopped clove of garlic
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/3 c. panko bread crumbs

Mix ingredients together and grill.

Raspberry Orange Smoothie

raspberry smoothieI was looking for a recipe to use up some raspberries in my freezer. I ran across this recipe which also used the one banana laying on my counter. Jeremiah and I decided it wasn’t too bad. No flavors were overwhelming and it’s a pretty healthy drinks.

Raspberry-Orange Immunity Smoothie by Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen
1 c. nonfat milk or soy milk
1 c. frozen raspberries
1 medium banana
1/3 c. of orange juice & one ice cube or 1 T. frozen orange juice concentrate

Blend together and serve.

Chicken Biryani

For a house warming gift, my boyfriend Jeremiah’s sister bought us a box of food from Hello Fresh. She was telling us about it a few months back because her mother-in-law had bought them some as a Christmas gift. If you aren’t familiar with it, they are one of those companies where they ship you all the ingredients to make a couple of recipes. The focus is on fresh ingredients.

With Hello Fresh, you can select from 2 or 4 servings. They have two boxes to chose from – regular or vegetarian. Each comes with three recipes and all the ingredients you need to prepare those recipes (except oil, salt, and pepper). Each of the three recipes comes in its own individual box. At the bottom of the large box is all the fresh meat. All the recipes have similar ingredients. That means sense from a cost prospective. They also work it so you can reuse ingredients like chicken stock concentrate to cook peas and make gravy. They are pretty simple recipes and often increase less common ingredients like ginger, golden raisins, and parsnips. All the recipes called frying the meat. Since this isn’t how we normally cook our meat, we modified this recipe by baking the chicken.

This particular recipe had fresh peas in it. I hate peas. Jeremiah asked if I wanted to not include them. They looked very fresh so I said we could include them. I decided if I hated them, I could always pick them out. That’s normally what I do with fried rice. To my surprise, I did not hate them in this recipe and ate all of them. I think the sweetness of the golden raisins helped. I’m sharing this recipe because it was the most complex and flavorful of the recipes we prepared. We kept the recipe because Jeremiah wants to make it again. Although this recipe was supposed to be just two servings, we ended up with a lot of extra rice. We ended up added preparing a little more roasted chicken breast and getting two more servings out of it. The leftovers were pretty good too.

If you would like to check them out for yourself, I did see a Groupon for them last week. I’m not sure if it is still available but I think you were able to get a two serving box of three recipes for $40 – or about $6.50 per serving.

Chicken BiryaniCrispy Chicken Biryani by Hello Fresh
2 Chicken Thighs (bone in, skin on)
¾ c. Basmati rice
4 oz. fresh peas
1 red onion
1 plum tomato
1 lime
1 jalapeno
1 ginger root
2 cloves of garlic
¼ oz. cilantro
1 oz. golden raisins
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. garam masala
1 packet of chicken stock concentrate
1 tsp. oil

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Coat a pan with oil and cook chicken. Meanwhile, prep remaining ingredients. Dice the onion and tomato. Peel and grate the ginger. Mince the garlic. Cut jalapeno (remove seeds for less spice). Chop cilantro. Slice lime into wedges. Remove chicken from pan but leave the leave the oil in the pan. Add onion and jalapeno to pan. Cook for 4-5 minutes. Then, add garlic, ginger, garam masala, and cumin. Cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes. Add tomato, rice, raisins, chicken stock, and 1 ¾ c. water to the pan. Season the pan with dash of salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 12-14 minutes. Stir in peas. Cook uncovered for 3-5 additional minutes. Squeeze with a few lime wedges and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with remaining lime wedges.

Purple Potatoes

The first time I ever saw purple potatoes was in Harvesters warehouse. They were a project for the volunteers to sort and repackage. I think we sent them out on a mobile food pantry. I wondered, “How do you cook them?” and “What do they taste like?” I’m sure the Nutrition Department didn’t have a recipe for them.

My boyfriend Jeremiah is trying to watch his carb intake. Jeremiah discovered that purple potatoes are a good option for someone trying to watch their carbs. They have half the carbs of regular potatoes (37 carbs vs. 17 carbs). He says, purple potatoes have less starch, potassium, and are high in antioxidants. You can’t cook them like regular potatoes though. He found this recipe online and we made it for dinner last night. To my surprise, they were really good. In fact, I think I like them better than regular au gratin potatoes.

Purple potatoesStacey’s Famous Purple Potato Gratin from AllRecipes.com
4 slices of bacon, chopped
1 leek, sliced
8 purple potatoes, thinly sliced
3 T. flour
½ c. milk
6 oz. crumbles goat cheese
¾ c. grated parmesan cheese

Cook the bacon in a pan. Spray a 2 ½ qt. baking dish with non-stick spray. Coat the potatoes in flour. Layer the baking dish with potatoes, leek, bacon, and goat cheese. Pour milk over ingredients. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese before serving. Makes four servings.

Notes:

  • We substituted shallots for leeks in this recipe.
  • We used skim milk and it was just fine. Please note though that you must spray the pan as this dish does not have a lot of fat.
  • Before adding the milk, Jeremiah also added 2 T. of butter cubed onto of the potatoes.
  • The original recipe calls for the leeks to be sautéed with the bacon. It also suggests mixing the cheese and milk together. Then, melting it together before pouring over the potatoes.