colorful corn & bean salad

I’m on a veggie kick lately, y’all.

photo3

photo1

photo5

Summer speaks to me of warm summer nights, porch sitting, fresh produce, and {if I’m being honest} minimal time spent hovering over a hot oven. There’s nothing more unfortunate than spending time in said space when you could be lounging on your porch, dining al fresco, with an easy dinner based off little or no cooking. This is where this salad comes into play.

I’m fortunate in the sense that I have several friends who actually have the time to spend crafting successful gardens, and I am the frequent benefactor of the fruits of their labors. Granted, I dabble in it – albeit slightly with tomatoes/herbs/lettuces, which is better than nothing – but I do not have the knowledge or time to give it the love it needs. Summer after summer, I find myself constantly coming up with new and inventive ways to jazz up the produce I’m blessed to accept.

I’ve played with preserving and jarring pickles, canning my own tomato sauce, and preserving fruits in the form of delicious jams and jellies. But, it’s so hard to not want to eat up each and every bit of produce as soon as we possibly can. So when a bunch of fresh corn, peppers, and jalepenos showed up on my door step, this salad was born.

I’m not even sure if it’s fair to call this a true “recipe” even. I’ve mentioned before that a lot of my summer cooking is spent on a wing and a prayer, and this was one of those. As I was measuring and stirring, I had the hubs write it down for me so I could share it here with y’all. As as I am constantly mentioning, feel free to play around with this! So far, we’ve served it on top of salads, inside of quesadillas, and even just set out as a salsa for dipping in my fresh chips. I think it would make a wonderful topping for fresh cod, or stirred into sauteed veggies. I wouldn’t be surprised if I spooned it on top of a pizza someday…

~~~

Colorful Corn & Bean Salad {original recipe, serves 6-8}

Ingredients:

4 ears fresh corn {hulled of its skin} and trimmed off so only the kernels remain

1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1 can diced tomatoes, drained

1 green bell pepper, diced

up to 1 whole jalepeño, seeds removed {if desired} and finely grated

1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice

1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. oregano

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 to 1 tsp. cayenne pepper

salt and pepper, to taste

To Prepare:

Add fresh corn into the bottom of a large, wide-mouthed mixing bowl {I like to use my largest stainless steel one). Add in both beans, the tomatoes, and the green peppers. Stir to combine.

photo2

photo6

Grate in the fresh jalepeño, and mix well. Drizzle in the olive oil and lime juice, stirring to combine. Set aside for 5 minutes and allow the flavors to merry while we assemble the spice mixture.

Combine all seasonings in a small bowl, making sure to evenly distribute them {we don’t want any clumps of cumin, or hot spots of cayenne}.

Sprinkle evenly over the corn/tomato/bean mixture, and stir well. Store in an airtight container, or several smaller Mason jars {for easy transport and serving}. Salad will keep well in the fridge for several days.

photo8

photo9

 

buttermilk biscuits

The perfect biscuit, in my oh-so-humble opinion, should be perfectly flaky yet still fluffy, light, and moist with no heaviness.

Seems like a pretty tall order, eh?

photo1

I’ve always been a fan of the perfect biscuit – a match made in heaven for the classic breakfast sandwich, a reliable vehicle for butter and jam, or kept simple and drizzled with just a touch of honey. But it’s been a tried and true search, dears. Copious amounts of research and many trial-and-error batches have resulted in my putting a halt on this quest for some time now. You see, I’m picky when it comes to this particular bread – I’ve never been fond of using lard in cooking, or shortening, and have found that it’s easy to over {or under} estimate the amount of butter needed to create those perfect layers.

When we had company a few weeks back, I decided to give this infamous recipe, this culinary enemy of mine, another go. Rather than re-exploring previous recipes, I opted for a fresh start. That being said, and having spoken with my previous experiences of different bases, I settled on exploring the buttermilk route. I knew that its creamy texture and tangy bite would be a good base for my dough, but didn’t want to travel down the {errenous} method of baking sans recipe. When I stumbled upon this one, I knew I had found a winner. A perfect balance of tangy buttermilk and rich butter {neither too much nor too little of each!} ensured me that I would come up with the perfect biscuit.

Do try and make these yourselves! Once set in the oven and baking, the aroma will tantalize you terribly. I promise, these won’t last more than a day or so.

~~~

Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits

{recipe adapted from Cooking Light}

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour*

2-1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

5 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces

3/4 C. low-fat or fat-free buttermilk {because it’s summer, hot and humid, I probably used close to 1 C. total in this recipe}

3 Tbsp. honey

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl.

photo1 (1) photo2

Cut in the butter with a pasty blender or 2 knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal {you don’t want to overmix! – this will result in a tough biscuit}. Chill for 10 minutes.

 photo4

Combine buttermilk and honey, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Add buttermilk mixtures to flour mixture; stir just until moist.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead lightly 4 times. Roll dough into a {1/2 inch thick} 9×5 rectangle; dust top of dough with flour. Fold dough crosswise into thirds {as if folding a piece of paper to fit into an envelope}. Re-roll dough into a {1/2 inch thick} 9 x 4 rectangle; dust top of dough with flour. Again, fold dough into thirds, gently roll or pat into a generous 1″ thickness. Cut dough with a biscuit cutter to your desired size. I got 9 out of this size and amount. 

photo5

photo7

Place dough rounds about 1 inch apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes, or until golden. Remove from pan; cool 2 minutes on a wire rack.

photo8

Serve with your desired toppings and spreads.

Biscuits will keep, covered at room temperature, for about 2 days. Any longer than that, I would transfer into the refrigerator. 

banana bites

With the excessive heat we’ve been experiencing lately, I’ve been finding my produce become riper almost overnight, especially my bananas. I’ve tried every trick in the book to keep them from turning, as well as freezing what seems like tons and tons for future breads, but a girl can only fit so many in her ancient side-by-side refrigerator. And since I practically refuse to throw food away, I’ve been sitting around scratching my head trying to think of ideas.

photo2

Then one night, while going through vacation photos from last summer, I stumbled upon a spread I had laid out during our beach trip to the Outer Banks – my banana bites! Duh, Alicia.

photo9

It was truly one of those moments where I wanted to slap myself on the forehand, comedy-style, because I was shocked that I had forgotten about them. Whether it was the above-mentioned beach trip, day hikes, or camping trips, these were a summer staple for us. So quick and so easy to throw together, and minimal time in the oven makes them a perfect go-to snack.

The highlight of these added beauties is that there is NO.ADDED.SUGAR.

That’s right, you heard me. Because why take away from something as simple and lovely as a banana, perfectly ripe and sweet? The combination I’ve outlined below throws in a few extra “goodies”, if you will, but regardless, they only complement the flavor of the fruit.

Whether you toss these in your lunch for a breakfast on the go, as a mid-afternoon snack, or for a late-night treat {the addition of chocolate chips give you that fix without the guilt!}, these truly hit the spot. Sometimes, I’ll even throw them in the freezer, for when the days are especially hot and I just need that extra-cold treat!

~~~

Banana Bites {recipe adapted from The Simple Veganista}

makes about 15-18 bites

Ingredients:

4 very ripe bananas, mashed but still chunky

2 cup oats, rolled or quick

1/2 to 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips* {I used Ghiradelli}

1/2 to 3/4 cup peanut butter*

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 generous tsp. vanilla extract

pinch salt

Optional Add-Ins

nuts of choice {I would suggest walnuts or cashews in here}

dried fruits {I would think a tropical version, using dried mangoes and coconut butter, would be divine!}

shredded coconut

peanut butter chips

almond extract {if you prefer that flavor over vanilla}

coconut butter, almond butter, etc. {to sub for the peanut butter, should you choose}

To Prepare:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium-sized bowl, mash bananas until incorporated {like I mentioned above, chunks are good here!}. Add in oats, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla. Stir to combine. Gently fold in the peanut butter.

photo4

photo5

photo3

photo6

Fold in the chocolate chips {and any other additional add-ins} until mixed in well.

photo7

Lightly spray the parchment paper with cooking spray, to help with any residual sticking. Using a tablespoon, scoop mixture and place on cookie sheet. I left mine slightly rounded, but you can flatten slightly with the back of your spoon.

photo8

Baking in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until they appear set and the edges have collected themselves. Remove from oven, and let cool on a wire rack before storing.

photo1

Store leftovers loosely covered and eat within a few days. I would recommend transferring to the refrigerator if longer than that, or if you live in a hot/humid climate.

Notes: The riper the banana, the sweeter the final product. Coloring may vary slightly, due to the ripeness of the banana, the type of oat used {rolled vs. quick} and whether or not you mix in a nut butter or chocolate chips. 

*Depending on how chocolatey or peanut-buttery you like your bites, feel free to use additional, or less, of the amount listed. This particular recipe is easy to accommodate any palette! 

thirsty thursday: homemade bloody mary mix

If mimosas are for Saturday mornings, I’m going to go out on a limb and call Bloody Mary’s the drink for Sunday.

I don’t know about y’all, but I have a special place in my heart for the old fashioned Bloody Mary. Perhaps it’s due, largely in part, to my love of all things veggie-based, but I just cannot get enough of this delicious cocktail.

photo2

 

Granted, there are few places that do ‘em right. You’ve got to be careful of those “cocktails in a bottle” concoctions. Rather than brimming with garden-fresh goodness, they’re typically loaded up with sodium and artificial flavors. This doesn’t exactly spell out a tasty treat; we want to taste each piece of vegetable for what it truly is! Chock full of vitamins and minerals, loaded up with antioxidants…it’s safe to say {occasionally, at least in my book} that the Bloody Mary, when prepared properly, is going to do your body and mind good. Heck, even a splash or two of vodka isn’t going to hurt ya!

I’ve been playing around with my juicer quite a bit as of late, and this particular blend I’m sharing today was sent to me by a dear gal pal. When I was first skimming over the ingredients, or perhaps it was at a dinner date not too long ago, I thought that this was the most perfect recipe for a homemade Bloody Mary mix! A simple whirl down the juicer, and seconds later, you have Mason jars brimming with Sunday morning cocktail potential. And if you’re feeling particularly motivated, whip this up the evening before and you’ll have perfectly portioned glasses!

With the Farmer’s Market brimming with fresh produce, this is one drink that won’t set you back either! Simply buy only what you need, and you’ll be all set for a casual and leisurely Sunday morning. And for the record…this is a beverage best enjoyed with copious amounts of porch sitting, a fried egg on toast, and good company. Enjoy!

~~~

Homemade Bloody Mary Mix 

serves 2, can easily be multiplied

Ingredients:

3 whole tomatoes {I like to use Roma’s, or heirlooms if I have them on hand}

1/3 jalepeño*, seeds removed if less heat is desired

1/4 white onion, with the outer skin removed

2-4 carrots

3 stalks of celery**

1 lemon, peeled

Vodka of choice {to add in once the juice has been prepared. I like to go with 1.5 ounces per Bloody Mary, but you can use however much or little you desire}

Garnishes:

Old Bay seasoning, to rim the glass

whole stalks of celery {for stirring}

pickled veggies {I love asparagus stalks}

olives

lemon and lime wedges

To Prepare:

Thoroughly wash and dry all produce going into the drink. Since we’re processing each piece in its whole, we want to make sure all impurities have been removed.

Get the vegetables ready – cut the tomatoes into quarters, peel the onion skin off, remove the rind from the lemon, and discard the seeds of the jalepeno {or leave them in if you like it hot!}.

photo2

Assemble your container that the juice will enter once processed. I prefer to use a wide-mouth Mason jar, because that way I can give it all a good shake once complete!

Carefully place all vegetables through the mouth of your juicer, being careful not to splatter. I like to put a sheet of wax paper underneath mine, as it makes clean up a lot easier.

Once all has processed, screw the lid on your jar and give it a good shake! From here, build your perfect Bloody Mary.

photo3 photo4

Cheers!

 

*be very careful when handling the jalepeno! i like to wear plastic gloves, because the heat from the skin itself can irritate yours. If not wearing gloves, be sure to wash hands thoroughly – rubbing them against the sides of your stainless steel sink bowl is a great way to neutralize the heat. 

**save the leafy greens of the celery! not only are they a beautiful garnish, but add a wonderful flavor to soups, salads, etc. 

shrimp taco bar {at home!}

We’re bringing the outdoor taco stand from the outside in to our kitchen today!

I don’t know about y’all, but there are certain foods that just scream “summer” to me – and tacos are certainly one of them! I hardly ever find myself craving them during the year, but there’s something so satisfying about biting down onto a perfectly warm corn tortilla wrapped around a myriad of fillings that just is heavenly.

photo8

More often than not, good tacos are somewhat hard to come by around here. We are fortunate enough to have an excellent Mexican restaurant not too far from where we live, but sometimes, when the craving strikes, there’s just no time to change out of your yoga pants run out for dinner! Enter these tacos.

Being completely honest, this was one of those recipes I happened upon while preparing dinner a week or so ago. I love to keep shrimp on hand {we have it almost every week…sauteed, grilled, broiled, cocktail-style, etc.} because it’s so easy during these hot months to quickly and easily throw together a delicious and filling meal. Not only is it an excellent source of protein and super lean, but it’s a great vehicle for any sort of dish.

That’s where these tacos come in! I was going for a slightly sweet/smoky overall flavor, with accouterments that would play off those flavors nicely. This is a very easy dish to prepare, and can be adjusted according to your heat preference, flavor combinations, taco styles, etc.

photo9 photo10

photo2

~~~

Shrimp Taco Bar {at home!}

the below ingredients/sauces provide enough “materials” for two people at three tacos each…simply double/triple/etc. to come up with the correct amount for you at-home bar!

Ingredients: {sauteed shrimp filling}

8-10 jumbo shrimp, rinsed and deveined

extra virgin olive oil

salt & pepper, to taste

several tbsp. of your favorite Mexican beer

pinch of cumin, to finish off the shrimp {anywhere from 1/2 to 1 tsp.}

pinch of Cajun seasoning, to finish off the shrimp {I probably used a good tsp. or two}

Cook the Shrimp:

Preheat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Once nice and warm, add in a good drizzle of olive oil. You’ll want to turn it around the pan several times, to give it a good coating.

Once the oil is warm, add in the shrimp. Toss immediately so the shrimp don’t stick, and season with the cumin, Cajun seasoning, salt and pepper. Allow to cook for a minute or so, to develop initial color.

Add in the beer {away from the heat!}. Once back on the burner, turn up the heat to sear off the shrimp – you’ll want some good caramelized color on the sides! Being careful not to overcook, finish off until the beer has reduced. Remove from heat and set aside.

tip: pour off the cooking liquid and save as a drizzling sauce for the top of your tacos; it’s delicious!

Wraps & Fillings:

finely shredded napa cabbage {about 1-2 cups}

mini sweet bell peppers, assorted colors {I julienned about 7}

fresh cilanto

diced roma tomatoes {2-3 small ones is perfect}

julienned onions {green onions or scallions would be great as well}

wedges of lemons and limes

salsa {I used Trader Joe’s}

crumbled queso fresco, about 1/2 to 1 cup

crema**

corn tortillas {I assumed 3 per person, which was the perfect amount for the hubs and I}

Assemble the Taco Bar:

I find it easiest to put out different serving bowls for each topping, spreading out all along the sides of the table for easy access.

photo1

photo7  photo5

photo6  photo3

Whatever combination strikes your fancy for your taco stuffing is the way to go! I love a healthy dose of crunchy cabbage, fresh cilantro and tomatoes, drizzled with the crema and sprinkled with queso fresco. Such simple combinations are often the best – I hope you enjoy this fun and easy dinner! And make sure you enjoy it with a cold and refreshing Mexican beer, complete with a lime wedge!

**To Make the Crema: simply mix together one 6 ounce container of plain Greek yogurt with fresh lemon juice, fresh lime juice, a little dash of honey {to cut the tartness of the acidic juices and tart yogurt}, salt and pepper, and a pinch of two of fresh herbs {I used a combination of cilantro, cumin, and a dash of oregano}. You’ll want it thin enough to drizzle over the tops of the tacos, but still not run down to your elbows!

lately: summer solstice

The epic summer of adventures continued this past weekend! You may remember, a few weeks back, I featured a trip that the hubs and I took to Charleston to visit my youngest sister, Katie. We turned the tables this time around; she and her boyfriend, Sunan, made the trek to our humble abode.

We had a weekend full of river time, lounging in the sun, sandy shoes, and strolling around the downtown area. It just so happened that our quiet little city was celebrating the Summer Solstice, so we were able to take part in a few of the activities.

It’s always great to share quality time with loved ones, and I feel so fortunate that I’ve been able to see my sister as much as I have. And the fact that I can document our time spent together, and share it with you all, makes it even more fun.

xo

photo12

photo1

photo6 (1)

photo10

photo11

photo2

photo3

photo5 (1)

photo10 (1)

photo13

photo9 (1)

vacay!

Greetings from the West Coast, y’all!

photo4

The hubs and I are out for a fun-filled and relaxing two weeks at Lake Tahoe with my wonderful family-in-law. We’ve been counting down the days since we booked the tickets {back in November!} and couldn’t be happier that the time has finally arrived!

I’ve got a few posts lined up in the meantime, and will be checking in on social media. Be sure to check my Twitter and Instagram to see what kind of adventures we’re getting into :)

In the meantime, have a wonderful two weeks! We are sending sunshine your way! xo