Thursday, March 28, 2013

Sweet & Spicy Black Bean Quesadillas

Happy Sexy Vegetarian Thursday to you all! Here's to the fact it's almost Friday! Hallelujah!

I always seem to be complaining about what a long week it's been. If I'm sick of witnessing myself doing it, you're probably bored to death of it. My apologies, friends! Alternatively, I'd like to share 3 smile-inducing snapshots of my day:

1. On my drive to work this morning, I was sipping my smoothie as usual. I passed a cop who was parked on the side of the road awaiting unsuspecting, speedy drivers. Since the speed limit is only 30mph on that particular road, I had time to notice that he looked rather glum. I raised my mug towards him and shrugged my shoulders to say, Already quite a morning, eh? He grinned and toasted me with his coffee in return. It was a pretty great start to the morning.

2. The most exciting development of the day was J's discovery of the EXACT location where those pesky squirrels have been infiltrating our house. He sent me these texts:

"Holy crap! Figured out where squirrels are coming from. One came out of the hole and scared the hell out of me." This text is funny, but it's hilarious if you have no context. Why wouldn't he know where squirrels come from, and what hole exactly?!
"I am now calling the removal 'Operation Rocky.' Once [the squirrels] are cleared out we proceed to Operation 'Bullwinkle'."  What's not to love about these two sentences? I would be lying if I said I didn't chuckle about Rocky and Bullwinkle ALL DAY.

3. I must be out of the loop, but I just found out today that there will be a sequel TV show of Boy Meets World!!!!!! My life will be complete if I can watch that show and relive the glory years of my childhood. Like many others, I absolutely adored Cory, Topanga, and Shawn; I looked forward all day to watching their shenanigans after school. What could be better now that's I'm in my 20s to still have them as my role models?! Also, I suspect that if I had known J all my life, we would be much like Cory and Topanga (although, we really are just as corny and silly as those two characters anyways). Disclaimer: I already know that our bff Justin will tell us we're still Lily and Marshall to him :)

Let's get down to business (to defeat the Huns!).

Sweet & Spicy Black Bean Quesadillas

 4 servings

1 15-oz can organic black beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups shredded pepper Jack cheese

3/4 cup peach mango salsa
juice of 1 lime
1/2 avocado, diced4 whole wheat tortillas
cooking spray

In a bowl, combine the first five ingredients. As you can tell, we forgot about the avocado until later. Oops!

Spread the tortillas out on the counter. Place about 1/2 cup of the filling onto half of each tortilla. Fold the tortillas in half and press gently.

Heat a large skillet under medium heat. When warmed, coat with cooking spray. Cook each quesadilla for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Keep warm while the others cook.

Serve with remaining salsa and Greek yogurt.

Enjoy! xo

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Chasing the March blues away, New Orleans style.

I'll start by being 100% honest: I have never been to New Orleans. 

Unfortunately, I don't know a lot about Cajun culture or Mardi Gras, the bayous or the French Quarter. 

I can, however, sing you every song of The Princess and the Frog, although that doesn't count for much if you're not babysitting a three year old. 

From my limited knowledge of The Big Easy comes this attempt at red beans and rice. I wanted something hot and a little spicy to combat this long, cold month of March. 

I can't tell you if this tastes anything like what you could get in New Orleans! I can tell you that it's freakin delicious. This would be equally tasty if you used a tofu option to replace the sausage. It's a pretty versatile meal!

Red Beans and Rice
*this makes between 4 and 6 healthy servings*

Prepare brown rice so it yields 3 cups total of cooked rice. That's about 1.5 cups of rice and 3 cups of water.

 In a large skillet (and I mean the largest one you own), heat 1 Tbs. olive oil. Add 1 medium onion, diced, 1 stalk of celery, diced, and 2 chopped garlic cloves. Cook over low-medium heat for about 5 minutes until softened. (Feel free to toss in a carrot or bell pepper if you desire.)

Add 1 pound of your favorite sausage and cooked until browned.

Drain off any excess fat, then add two cans of drained and rinsed red kidney beans. Pour in 1/2 cup of chicken broth. Add 1/2 tsp. cumin, 1/2 tsp. dried sage, and 1 tsp. red pepper flakes. 

Bring to a simmer, then cook until beans begin to break down and the mixture thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over rice.

Enjoy! xo

Monday, March 18, 2013

St. Patrick's Day: glorious stew and cupcakes!

Happy belated St. Patrick’s Day to those of you who celebrate it! Mr. J and I are both Irish (I am only a tiny wee bit on my mom’s side. My great-great-grandmother was Irish!), so we decided to have a proper Patty’s Day celebration, complete with stew, sweets, Dropkick Murphys, and lots of Irish alcohol. I mean, a lot! All the good stuff’s from Ireland, in my opinion. 

Aren't these excellent?!
We invited a Chinese friend over for dinner because he is always cooking us the most amazing food. Bless him, he was, as always, a phenomenal guest! He brought along even more booze and a dish of spicy beef tofu. It ended up being the best Irish-American-Chinese St. Patrick’s Day there ever was!

One of the highlights of our evening was the successful baking of Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes. I cut the recipe in half since even I didn't want 24 of these bad boys on my hands--I would literally blow up like a balloon if that many of them were around! In terms of the recipe itself, I added a little more Jameson to the ganache and more Bailey's to the frosting, in addition to using semi-sweet chocolate chips for the filling.

These babies are the BEST cupcakes I've ever had. What's not to love about chocolate, butter, and booze? They are soft, sweet, and creamy. I am fantasizing about one right now.... I decided to distribute a few cupcakes to some co-workers who helped me out of a tough patch last week. One of them asked me to make them for her wedding!! I said, "Thanks, but no thanks." Don't get me wrong, I was totally flattered. But, agreeing to such a task would just be asinine, especially given that we may be moving well before she gets hitched.
Mr. J and I also collaborated on Guinness stew! I have no idea why, but sadly there are no pictures of said stew :( Seriously, what was I thinking?! Once I realized I didn't take any pictures of our dinner, there weren't any leftovers to photograph! I'm a tool. Anyways, I figured I could tell you what we did, even if there aren't any visuals. Sorry about that…

Guinness stew ingredients
- lean stew beef, between 2 and 2.5 lbs
- 1 Tbs. olive oil
- 2 ½ Tbs. flour
- salt and pepper
- 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 onion, cut into eighths and then pulled apart
- 1 bottle of Guinness
- 2 handfuls of grape tomatoes or ½ large tomato, pureed with a splash of water
- 2 cups of carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 2 large red potatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 tsp. dried thyme, crushed

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. In a medium bowl, toss the beef with the oil, flour, and seasonings until completely coated.
2. Place a large skillet over medium heat. Brown the beef on all sides.
3. Add the garlic, onion, half of the beer, and tomato puree into the skillet. Cover with foil and cook on low-medium heat for 5 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, coat a 9 x 13 glass baking dish with cooking spray. Scatter the carrots and potatoes evenly on the bottom of the dish. Pour the other half of the beer over these veggies. Top with salt, pepper, and thyme.
5. Take the skillet off the heat. Pour the beef mixture over the veggies in the baking dish.
6. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 1 hour. Remove the foil, and bake for another 1 ½ hours.
7. Serve with soda bread.

Today I linked up to: Frugal by Choice, and:

                                                                   Jam Hands

Enjoy! xo

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What I've been up to lately, and some throw pillow shopping advice.

I have that feeling in my chest. You know, the heavy one that sits right above your sternum when you haven't talked to an old friend in a long time. That feeling of having so much to say and not knowing where to begin, and being unsure that any of the built up complaints really even matter now that you look back on them. But, you know you want to share something, anything, to reconnect.

I've been pretty disconnected from my blog for almost two weeks (which, in our electronic world may as well be a lifetime) and I've realized that C.C. has become a way to keep in touch with friends and family, to share ideas, to vent, and to find something positive and constructive to do. Not posting for so long feels like I've been neglecting a confidante, a fellow crafter, and another foodie all in one. It's time to chat face to face, C.C. (readers). While it's easy to turn to ridiculous work stories and the general craziness that is being in your twenties (or thirties or any age, really), I'd rather dish about what I've been doing that's creative and fulfilling.

Enter: home decor shopping. I know, how consumerist of me, right? Well, I'll be the first to admit to loving a little retail therapy. It's probably not the healthiest or most philosophically enlightened way to deal with a shitty day, but, sometimes it feels damn good to find a few pairs of skinny jeans that make my butt look fabulous and some patterns to put around my living space that make me smile.

Somethings I've been dying to have in the house are new throw pillows for the couch. A good friend gifted handmade ones to me a couple Christmases ago, but they were so well-loved that they fell apart. I figured that good, cute pillows were worth a bit of an investment. Following the ever on-point decorating advice of my friend, Brittanie, I took Kohl's by storm. Brittanie and I even resorted to using a curtain rod to reach pillows on the high shelves to ensure I was making the perfect purchase.

I thought I'd share B's pillow advice since I found it so helpful.

Throw Pillow Purchasing Tips
  1. 3 is a magic number. Buy 3 pillows. Just do it.
  2.  Texture is everything. If you don't love the feel of the fabric and the "squish" factor of the pillow at first touch, then you'll never love it.
  3. It works really well if each pillow has a unique print.
  4. You can help the prints coordinate by finding a similar color or shape (my pillows are all in the yellow family and the two printed pillows share rounded shapes). 
  5. A good rule of thumb is to have one solid pillow, one bold and busy print, and a medium print. This helps balance them.
I wish everyone had a Brittanie to help them make pillow purchasing easier! Who knew that buying pillows could be so complex? She was a blessing; I would have either given up or just bought three of the same pillow without her help. How boring would that have been?

Here's what my wee red couch looks like now with its jazzy pillows!

Thank you, Brittanie, for all of your help! I literally squeal whenever I see the pillows all lined up.

In this same weekend, I went to Home Goods with another friend, Jess. I was helping her look for the perfect rug for her kitchen when I stumbled across a BRILLIANT find: a warm, happy, small rug that not only fit perfectly in my yellow kitchen but was also only $8. Say what?!

Look at this precious thing!

Could you have said no to those flowers? No, no you could not. I love that it has the red and yellows that are already in the kitchen. Plus, it packs a punch of orange and a funky turquoise-aqua color I would never fathomed of putting in there.

Now that the rug is here, though, I can't imagine my kitchen without it. It's just so HAPPY! 

My little piece of advice for buying an accent rug is to not be afraid of experimenting with pattern and color. Find a pattern that makes you smile that has within it a color or two already in the room you're decorating.

What have all of you been doing lately that makes you smile like a fool?

Enjoy! xo