Fun fact: I can get B to eat just about anything if it's southwestern flavored, even vegetarian meals. The man loves his Mexican food.
We have this giant bag of red quinoa we used for this recipe, so I'm trying to find other uses for it so that we don't have to make the exact same thing over and over. In looking, I found this recipe and this one, and both of them looked like something B would gobble up. They were immediately placed on next week's dinner rotation.
...and there they'll stay, in the form of this combined recipe. If you want to make quinoa taste, well, NOT like quinoa, I highly recommend you give this recipe a go. It's almost like a southwestern chili, except without the ground beef. You could add kidney beans to it to give it even more fiber and bulk. And we will definitely be adding more spice next time. We tossed in a few dashes of Texas Pete, but that wasn't enough for our spice-loving selves.
This recipe made six meals (two for dinner, plus four more for lunches), so it's really inexpensive and great for a crowd. It's a great, filling, hearty recipe that's surprisingly healthy and even more surprisingly tasty. Have a margarita with it at your own discretion. Ole!
Southwestern red quinoa bowls
1 cup red quinoa
1 can black beans, rinsed well
1 cup corn, rinsed well
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup green onions, diced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon Trader Joe's South African smoke seasoning
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder (ancho if you have it - we don't)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 avocado, diced
Cook quinoa according to package directions.
Meanwhile, saute black beans, corn, and red pepper until warm. Mix in a bowl with green onions, lime juice, seasonings, and olive oil.
Once quinoa is cooked, mix with veggie mixture. Top with cilantro and avocado.
We're on kind of a "Stevenson Family Get Healthy" plan right now. We fell off the exercise and eat-right wagon the closer we got to the wedding and the more time became crunched. Going to the gym became less of an option and more of a joke. Taco Casa became a very real dinner option multiple nights in a week. And heaven knows we ate a TON on our honeymoon.
So now that things have (mostly) settled down, it's time to get back into shape, and a big part of that involves eating healthily. One of our favorite healthy treats is a recipe from the mother of one of the girls I used to work with at my church's youth group. She's now a rising senior at Alabama, but at her high school graduation party three years ago her mother made this salsa. I asked for the recipe immediately, and have made it many, many times in the last three years.
A lot of times we serve it atop meat (usually fish), although it makes a fantastic side dish on its own. I think it's best with blue corn tortilla chips, but it's really good with just about anything. It's great to take to a party or cookout because it looks and tastes SO impressive, but it's really easy. Plus, it's light and great for summer. Make this, and you won't be sorry!
Bethann's Mom's Mango Salsa
2 ripe mangos, diced
1/2 cup sweet onion (I used Vidalia)
1 jalapeno, diced very finely
1/4 cup sweet mint, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro chopped
juice from 2 limes
Mix. Eat. Enjoy. Repeat.
Yep. The one vegetable I just don't like. But just like the quinoa recipe, there always seems to be an exception. The exception is this, because...
They're marinated. I love just about anything that's marinated. And I could (and probably WILL) eat these all summer long. Dill is such a bright, tangy spice that reminds me of summer, and of the dill my grandmother grew among the flowers in her garden. The red pepper flakes - well, we add more than is called for, because who doesn't love a little kick. The rice wine vinegar gives it an Asian flair.
These make a fabulous side dish to fish or chicken, or, you know, to a fork. They (obviously) are fantastic with Asian food, but you could just as easily whip up a batch and take them to a cookout with hot dogs and hamburgers. They're quick, they're easy, and I personally mix them up right in the containers I store them in.
Happy summer, sweet readers!
Asian Marinated Cucumbers
1 large cucumber or 2 small ones, thinly sliced
1/4 large red onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar (usually found with Asian foods)
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/4 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or just shake the container until you think it'll be spicy enough)
Combine all ingredients in a container with a tight-fitting lid.
Shake the container to mix.
Refrigerate and let sit for at least an hour, shaking occasionally.
I really thought I had this in the bag. I was one of the last of my close friends to get married, and I'd been in their weddings, for better or for worse. I'd seen an awful lot, and was rewarded with a heaping helpful of knowledge from my sweet, sweet friends. They were there to answer any questions I had. Further, I had been planning my wedding in my head since I was about, oh, 16. I had some pretty good ideas of things I wanted (and didn't want). And I am crazy, crazy organized and OCD. Still, there were things that surprised me...
Meetings with vendors are wildly inconvenient
Let me start by saying that I worked with THE best vendors and they have been so helpful and fantastic. I'm not knocking any of them in any way, shape or form, and I would hire them all again in a heartbeat. But here's the thing: just because they will be working on a night and a weekend (presumably) on the actual day of your wedding doesn't mean they want to work on nights and weekends leading up to it. They want their get-to-know-you meetings to be during the regular workday. Unfortunately, my boss also kind of likes it when I'm, you know, at my place of employment during the workday.
This was my biggest frustration in wedding planning - trying to get off work to go to vendor meetings. The reception site's ONLY times for food tastings were 2:00 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Period. That wasn't convenient for me, that wasn't convenient for B, and that REALLY wasn't convenient for my parents who had to drive 3 hours to participate in this event. Thankfully, we did it on the Thursday before my birthday so they could combine it into a long weekend/birthday visit. I ordered my save-the-dates, invitations, and menu cards from Wedding Paper Divas solely because I could peruse, design, order and preview them online and do it on my time, meaning one less harried lunch-hour meeting during the week. Unless you work from home or have a REALLY flexible schedule, be prepared to have a little heart-to-heart with your office manager about your comings and goings.
Pinterest actually doesn't help
That's the best way to explain it. It's just too easy to get three billion suggestions, and deciding between them is IMPOSSIBLE. There were like 400,000 different routes I could have taken with flowers - white, pink, blue, yellow...we're talking a freaking rainbow here. How can you choose? How can you know which really will look best?
By going to one of those aforementioned inconvenient vendor meetings, of course. My florist pulled out a scrapbook of weddings they'd done, and one of them matched my vision PERFECTLY. I fell in love. They tweaked it just a tiny bit to suit my tastes, but I absolutely LOVED my flowers (pictured above)...and Pinterest had nothing to do with it. Trust your vendors. They've done this many times (tip: hire experienced vendors), and they should be able to help you pinpoint your style. If you have your heart set on this ONE THING you saw on Pinterest, you could miss something even more amazing.
The one thing, however, that Pinterest DID help with was hairstyles. I pinned several similar ones I liked, and my hair and makeup artist was able to create a similar style that I LOVED. She did say that they can't re-create any one style EXACTLY, but having ALL those pictures pinned in one place was able to give her an idea of what I liked. So Pinterest has its uses...just don't let it overwhelm you or dictate your every move.
Do NOT DIY
I consider myself a fairly crafty person. I crochet all the time, and I like to make things. However, no matter how crafty you are, your wedding really isn't the place to do it. The ONLY things I "made" were the wine corks and the place cards inside them (see above), and after a weekend spent watching March Madness and playing with an Xacto knife, I was even re-thinking that.
A lot of people go the DIY route to save money, and I'm not knocking that. You gotta do what you gotta do. But unless you (or your MOH, your 'maids, or your mother) are SUPER-experienced in doing certain things, just don't. I had one of my bridesmaids, who is a graphic designer by trade, design my wedding programs. It's entirely possible I could have done it myself, but the time and mental capacity involved would've made me miserable, and it would've looked nowhere as amazing as her work.
If (for cost reasons), you absolutely MUST do something yourself, make it something that can be done well in advance of the wedding. See if you can find a talented friend/neighbor/coworker who would offer their services in lieu of a wedding gift. Fork out the money for the stuff that HAS to be done the day-of (flower arranging, catering, etc) so you and your family can relax and enjoy your wedding, because that is the main goal.
I frequently refer to Gilmore Girls as the oracle for life (how could I not? I AM Rory). So it really befuddles me that I did not listen to a direct quote from Luke regarding weddings: "There's nothing like a wedding to screw up a family." I will not go into details or name parties involved, but trust me, this happened. The good news, ironically, is that for us it happened on both sides of our families, and at right about the same time. There was only so long the wedding planning perfection could hold out before something had to give, and oh, it gave.
If you have an uncle that likes to grope young women, or an aunt that cannot stay out of the liquor bottle, or a bitter sibling who's always tried to one-up you, they will not change just because it's the most important day of your life (not theirs). If they'll bring the behavior to your family Christmas get-together, they'll bring it to your wedding (and/or to the planning). Do not take this personally. Have a glass of wine with your husband-to-be and laugh about them, instead.
Planning is most fun with your spouse-to-be
Maybe it's because my mother and all my best friends live at least three hours away, but the most enjoyable aspects of wedding planning were the ones that I did WITH B. A lot of the stuff he was perfectly content to let me handle. Flowers? He wanted no part of that. But he came with me to all three cake tastings, and we enjoyed ourselves SO much talking about what we liked, didn't like, envisioned, etc. We laughed about the crazy vendors and were in complete agreement about the ones we liked. We debated ideas and suggestions. It was so much nicer to plan our wedding together since it was OUR wedding, not MINE.
Just something to keep in mind there, budding bridezillas. It IS your husband's day, too. You may be the one in the big white dress that everyone is looking at, but the day is about the both of you, not just you. So involve your hubby-to-be in the planning.
"The Big Day" will not be perfect
Everything went perfectly right up until the day before the wedding. Then the fun began.
We went to the rehearsal, where everyone in the family and wedding party was blown away by the insane amount of rules and, oh hell, the insane rules themselves, imposed by my church. That is a whole different story that could fill an entire blog post itself and/or an open mic comedy night, but anyway. We survive that, and get in the car to head to the rehearsal dinner.
That's when I get a text from my mother saying my brother has food poisoning with a fever of 102.9, and they've stopped at an urgent care place. Um, yeahhhh. Between worrying about my brother and being sad my parents were missing our rehearsal dinner, it was a long night. But they were finally able to show up for the slideshow and the toasts, and all was well.
The day of the wedding did go relatively smoothly, albeit with some fun NEW rules from the church (such as, my still-weak brother can't bring a water bottle into the church). My brother escorted my mom down the aisle and then sat with her instead of standing up front as a groomsman, as originally planned.
But you know what? It was a perfect day, at least to us. We had a beautiful first look, a...well, a ceremony (those involved know why I'm refraining from adjectives here), and a FANTASTIC, fun, amazing reception celebration with our friends and family. And at the end of the day, we were husband and wife. It may not be textbook-perfect, but it's YOUR wedding day, so I promise, it will be perfect to you. :)
Most of you know that B and I went on our honeymoon to Costa Rica. We stayed at the fabulous Casa Chameleon. It was unbelievable - lush, green, tropical, tranquil, intimate...basically perfect. If you're looking for a honeymoon locale or just a romantic vacation spot, look no further.
But while the private and upscale villas were wonderful, the best part of staying at Casa Chameleon, hands down, was the food. Oh my Lord, the food. We had a "half-board" food package, where we had breakfast and either lunch or dinner included each day. We always chose dinner because we were always off doing something during the day, and with dinner you get a whole bottle of wine each night.
Yeah, I was in heaven. But the FOOD. After the first night, we started keeping a food journal because we didn't want to forget ANY of this. For instance, our first meal included an appetizer of gulf (Costa Rica gulf) calamari marinated in beer, butter and cayenne pepper breaded and fried with a pepper sauce; a main course of gulf mackerel with yucca root, grilled local squash and tomatillo chutney; and dessert of local mini bananas flambeed with rum and orange juice topped with passion fruit coulis. I mean, seriously.
Even better, the "dining room" (which is open-air) is tiny and there were two other couples there, at most, so it was really like our own private chef's table. The chef would come out and talk to us and tell us about our food and answer any questions we may have, and believe me, we had a lot.
On our last night, my question was this: "How did you make this?!" My main course was pacific mackerel served over quinoa with tomatillo and baby tomato relish with broccoli (see below). But that wasn't just any ordinary quinoa.
See, I don't really LIKE quinoa. It's just...weird. It's in this netherworld of in-between, not really a starch but definitely not a vegetable. And the previous times I've had it, it's been like chewing on mashed-up Styrofoam. Like I said, weird.
But this...I DEVOURED this stuff. So when our talented and amazing chef, Pabro, came out to see how we liked our dinner, I knew I had to get this recipe. And because I'm a nice person, I'm sharing it with you. This stuff is so FLAVORFUL, filling and healthy. You can't go wrong. We served it with roasted tomatoes topped with roasted garlic and marinated shrimp, and it was the perfect meal after a LONG Monday.
1 cup red quinoa
1-2 heads garlic, roasted (I used this recipe) and roughly chopped
1/4 cup chopped cashews, toasted
Roughly 1/4 cup lime juice
Roughly 1/4 cup coconut milk (we used Trader Joe's Light Coconut Milk)
Trader Joe's South African spice blend
Salt and pepper to taste
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Rinse quinoa VERY well under cold water. Put into a small frying pan and toast on low-ish heat until the water has evaporated (this keeps it from being bitter).
Cook quinoa according to package directions.
Once the quinoa is cooked, stir in the diced garlic immediately.
Add salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and Trader Joe's South African spice to taste (clearly this part did not come from Pabro, but from my own obsessive self)
Right before serving, stir in equal parts coconut milk and lime juice. We used slightly less than 100 milliliters of each, but you can add it in to taste.
Serve, and enjoy!*
*Amazing view and romantic villa not included. Bottle of wine to be consumed at your discretion :)
After a brief hiatus brought about by, you know, a wedding and a honeymoon (no big deal, right?), we are BACK! We almost have all of B's stuff into my condo, and every day it looks more like a home and less like a Stephen King novel come to life. Yay, marriage!
But anyway, we're back. It took a week, but we finally have the kitchen organized enough to actually cook. And since this is my first meal I've cooked as a WIFE (oh, how I love saying that!), I wanted it to be good. I wanted to cook something that I've really been wanting to make a while.
You know how sometimes you go to restaurants and you think, "This is why I pay you for my food - because I could NEVER make this." I do that frequently with gnocci - ever since studying abroad in Italy I've been in love with it, but the stuff you buy in the grocery store? Not terrific. Then there are those times you go to restaurants and think, "This is really good - but I bet I could make this."
B and I wound up with a coupon for a free meal to a new restaurant in town, Babaziki. So we went, and as one of my side dishes I ordered the tabbouleh. I have no idea how I managed to make it to the age of 30 without eating this stuff before, but HOLY COW. I fell in love. It was ridiculously flavorful, light, and so incredibly satisfying. We went back, and I got it again. And as I ate it the second time, I started thinking, "I can TOTALLY make this."
Hence tonight's menu. Personally, I don't think it's as good as Babaziki's, but for a homemade version you really can't beat it. It's easy and very healthy (and we need that, after all we ate on our honeymoon!). Give it a try at home, and Greenvillians, go test it against the real version and see which you like best!
Glad to be back, sweet readers - look forward to many more food posts featuring some of our newest kitchen gadgets we received as wedding presents. Check out our new flatware in this pictures!
Copycat Babaziki Couscous Tabbouleh
1 cup couscous (we used the whole wheat kind from Trader Joe's)
1 cup fresh tomato, diced (about one large tomato)
1 mini Persian cucumber, diced
1/2 cup red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup mint, finely chopped
zest and juice from 1 lemon
zest and juice from 1/5 limes
4 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Cook couscous according to package directions. Mix with all of the ingredients, and adjust to taste. Enjoy!