Mother's Day and Margarita Fruit Salad

First off…Happy Mother’s Day wishes to all of you amazing Moms out there. I was reminded today how blessed I am to still have my Mom in my life. Several dear friends have Moms that are really ill right now and my heart goes out to them. I actually picked up the phone last night (knowing that I just saw my Mom Friday night and that I would be seeing her again today) just to tell her how much I loved and appreciated her. Life is definitely too short to not let those close to you know how much they mean to you.

O.k…onto the food porn.

My brother decided to host a BBQ lunch for our Mom at his place this year. He is definitely the master of the grill. He even has a rib cook off medal to prove it.

I was asked to bring a fruit salad and rolls. Sounded easy enough. I put off grocery shopping until this morning. I wanted super fresh rolls and I had other things going on yesterday.

The grocery store parking lot was insane. People driving in every direction. The store had placed two racks of cards and 3 massive bucket displays of flowers, balloons and other last-minute Mom’s day gifts by the front doors. I counted 22 men, with children in tow, hovering around the same “Mom, you’re the best!” tri-fold cartoon cards…written in Español – hah! Seriously…wasn’t much of a selection.

I gathered what I needed and had an hour to clean, photograph, cut, prepare and photograph (again) my dish. Hmmm…probably why we ended up being 45 minutes late, whoops! What?  This food stuff takes time.

The Fruit:

The frozen peaches didn’t make it into the photo…can’t wait until peach and nectarines are back in season…

The Ingredients for the sauce

Margarita mix, honey and lime.

The super easy recipe called for the following measurements:
12 cups of fresh fruit
3/4 cup margarita mix
1/3 cup  honey
1/4 cup lime juice (I used less lime juice since the margarita mix had lots of lime already in it – I used the juice of 2 limes)

I whisked the margarita mix, honey and lime juice in a bowl and set it aside while I cut up the fruit. Pineapples are a big pain in the ass…I’ve seen the nifty pineapple cutters, but I don’t think it’s necessary…they are only a PITA when crunched for time…nothing beats fresh pineapple, yum!

Once I got the fruit cut up, I poured 1/2 the mixture over the fruit and lightly tossed it. I then took the bowl outside for its photo shoot.

It was kind of overcast today with a slight drizzle. None of that mattered, I could not wait to dive into the fruit bowl…the pool was looking pretty inviting too. The less than 60 degree water temp, not so inviting.

Sidenote: I actually tried kiwi with the skin on for the first time today. It took a little getting used to, and to be honest, I’ll probably continue to eat them sans skin. I’d seen so many food bloggers mention that they eat it like that, had to give it a try.

We got to my brother’s place and the tri-tip was close to being done. It smelled delicious!

They had bought some really pretty flowers and I couldn’t resist taking photos. Yes, I’m now “that” girl.

Star of Bethlehem Flowers – so pretty…

Godetia Flowers – super bright and cheery…these were part of their gift to my Mom…she’s definitely got the green thumb in the family. Let’s just say they went to the right house…I’ve chosen super hearty plants for my house/yard for a reason.

We were also greeted by the fur babies…

Max – he’s the tall tank…

Ozzie – He’s the short tank…the two of them are adorable and such loves…

Higgy stayed home, he’s not ready to play with the big dogs. He still has the drag with his left leg and down time is better for him. He promised to hold the couch down while we were gone. 😉

Lunch is served…

Tri-tip sandwiches, sweet potato fries w/lemon pepper and margarita fruit salad. We had sorbet and lemon cookies for dessert…

I had a great day spending time with my family. It’s back to the 8-5 grind tomorrow and menu planning for the week. Here’s to hoping that it’s going be a good Monday!

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Leek Newbie…

A recipe for a Wild Rice and Leek dish shared the same Food Network Magazine page as the Cauliflower Tabouli – having never cooked with leeks before, I thought I’d give it a try.

I had taken chicken out the night before and whipped up a marinade of olive oil, garlic, shallots, white wine, thyme and misc. seasonings from my spice cabinet. I knew this would be the perfect side, I even thought I could sell the hub on it.

I got advice from several co-workers and friends on how to properly clean a leek. I even watched a few YouTube videos…God, I love the Internet.

First up…

The Ingredients:

Leeks – the recipe called for 1, I used 2 – next time I might even use 3-4
2 tablespoons butter
Hazelnuts – to be used as a topper
Thyme – A few fresh sprigs worked great
Salt and Pepper to taste
Wild Rice – any kind will do – I used some from Trader Joe’s

I’m having  a lot of fun laying out the ingredients – I’m used to running around the kitchen like a mad woman flinging open cabinet doors, the fridge and pantry. Often forgetting to actually close the fridge…hah! I guess there is something to be said about keeping a clean work area/work station if we’re talking Top Chef or Chopped…not quite there yet. 😉

Getting off work right at 5:00 PM also helped. I didn’t feel rushed or flustered…

I got my wild rice on the stove before I took on the task of preparing the leeks.

Leek Cleaning 101

Everyone has a different take on how much of the green you should leave…an inch or two seemed to be the consensus. Most are pretty consistent with the white portion. It seems that lots of people save the green ends for soup stock. Shhh…I chucked them.

I slit the leeks down the center (not going all the way through) and then opened them up under the water. The silky dirt hides in the different layers.  I then started chopping, the recipe called for thin slices.

The next step was to get them into a bowl of cold water for more washing

I gave them a good swirl under the water and then put them into a colander for more rinsing and draining.

I’ve been wanting to get a collapsible colander and salad spinner…does anyone have one? I’ve seen several different Progressive and OXO models at Target and Bed Bath and Beyond.  I’m curious as to how the silicone holds up. I sure could use the extra cabinet space.

I then used  paper towels to pat dry the leeks before putting them into a pan with the butter, thyme sprigs and salt and pepper.

The thyme/butter combo made the entire kitchen smell amazing. I let them cook in the pan for the suggested 8 minutes on a medium to high heat.

I then added 1/2 the leek mixture to the wild rice. I transferred the rice into a serving dish and added the remaining leeks and chopped hazelnuts to get it ready for it’s photo shoot.

Everything came out great. Next time I don’t think I’ll cook the leeks for the entire 8 minutes and I might make the leek slices a tiny bit thicker.

Dan really like the chicken and wild rice combo. I did notice that he wasn’t a fan of the hazelnuts – so next time I might actually tell them that they are in the dish, LOL…or I will sub them out for slivered or sliced almonds, something that isn’t so bulky.

All in all….I give it 2 thumbs up. I will definitely make this dish again. I’m supper excited to try more leek recipes. I love the mild flavor and the green color is so vibrant – I’ve found a million different soup recipes, but I think I will try Alton Brown’s Grilled Braised Leeks next time we fire up the grill – Come on? Bacon and goat cheese? I’m so there!

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Pure Comfort…

Having a husband that occasionally eats 3 McDonald’s cheeseburgers and 2 McDonald’s baked apple pies* for lunch…I need to get a little creative for weekend lunches to keep the boy fed.

*Dan has been on a search to find the deep-fried pies they used to sell – he actually found a website that talked about the smaller McDonald’s having them due to space issues – they use the deep fryers to cook them…one day, victory will be his!

While I try my hardest to eat pretty healthy, a few comfort food/family recipes still find their way into the rotation. Ace’s Mom and Dad used to make “Meat Cups” for the boys and their simple recipe got passed along to me.

I made them as an appetizer for a block party a few years back and all of my drunk neighbors gobbled them up. I have to say, it is the perfect “drunk food”

For appetizers, I use my small muffin pans – 24 muffins…but this past weekend I wanted more of a lunch sized portion, heavier on the filling…

The ingredients include:
1 lb. lean ground beef (I have substituted ground turkey and shredded chicken before with excellent results)
BBQ Sauce – Sweet Baby Ray’s has become an easy favorite (I’ve made my own BBQ sauce as well)
Refrigerated Biscuits – I usually use the Pillsbury Grand Biscuits and cut them into 4’s for the smaller muffin pan. This time I used Pillsbury Grands! Jr – Golden Layers – Buttermilk, any brand will do…or you can use pizza dough or make your own.
Shredded Cheddar Cheese – Tillamook is my favorite – I definitely prefer using cheese I’ve shredded myself, pre-shredded doesn’t melt right.
Garlic – to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste

Sidenote: Speaking of Garlic – Trader Joe’s carries Dorot – a frozen crushed garlic – I often use it mid-week when I’m pressed for time. They also have frozen herbs by the same brand. LOVE them! Just pop em’ out and put the rest back in the freezer for later.

So the first step is to preheat the oven to the instructions on the biscuits. It varies depending what brand or kind you use. You then need to brown the ground beef with  salt, pepper and garlic. Once the meat has been browned and drained…add your BBQ sauce. Eyeball the amount of BBQ Sauce. I probably used a cup for the 1lb. of ground beef. You want the meat to be coated really well.

Using a non-stick muffin pan – flatten out your biscuit dough and place into each individual muffin hole. If you don’t have non-stick, I would definitely spray or coat the pan, so you can easily get them out.

You then add the meat into the biscuit cup…

and top with the shredded cheese – Like I said above, I used cheddar…but have used jack and mozzarella – just depends what your other ingredients are.

Slide them into the oven – when using the smaller muffin pan, you really need to watch them. They cook much faster.

I made sea salt oven fries for Dan and a spring mix salad for me. While we don’t have these very often, they sure are a great comfort food and substitute for Dan’s obsession with fast food lunches. He definitely prefers the smaller appetizer size, makes it easier to eat one after another.

Combos that would be good – ground turkey, chicken or beef, marinara and mozzarella – ground turkey, chicken or beef, taco seasoning or chili seasoning and sharp cheddar…the possibilities are endless and kids have loved them.

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