Category Archives: Food

Curried Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Standard

This is my favorite soup I’ve made the last few winters and I just made my first batch of the season a few days ago. It’s just as good as I remembered! I love making a big pot of it to have ready for dinner or lunch the next few days.Curried Chicken and Wild Rice SoupI think the curry flavor is a fun twist to a traditional chicken and wild rice soup. There’s just enough curry to add interest, but not completely take over the soup. Plus, it’s much healthier than the usual cream-based version. Instead of dairy, I use coconut milk to add the little bit of creaminess that keeps this soup so comforting.IMG_9068It will come together very quickly once you start cooking, so it’s easier if you get your ingredients chopped and ready to go.Curried Chicken and Wild Rice Soup IngredientsThis soup is so flavorful and so satisfying, perfect for this time of year! You’ll love it!Curried Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Curried Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Serves: 6

  • 1 cup uncooked wild rice (about 3 cups cooked)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 white onion, peeled and diced
  • 3 medium or 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 4-6 cups chicken broth (sometimes I use up to 6 cups if I increase the vegetables or will add more when reheating)
  • 1 (14oz ) can coconut milk, full-fat or light
  • 3-4 cups cooked chicken, shredded or cubed*
  • 1 Tablespoon curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼-½ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • Optional: cilantro for garnish

Start by cooking your wild rice according to directions on the package. Once the rice grains are just about to start popping open, take them off the stove and drain out any extra water. The rice will continue to absorb water in the soup, so I like to try to slightly under-cook it, maybe 5-10 minutes less than the directions call for.

Once you’ve got the rice going, start chopping all of your vegetables and chicken.

Heat the olive oil in a stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and cook until the onion is softened for about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally to keep the vegetables from sticking or burning. Then, add the chicken broth, coconut milk, chicken, and spices. Stir so that everything is combined and continue cooking on medium-high heat until the soup starts to boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for about 15 minutes (or until the rice is done) so that the flavors blend.

After it’s simmered, turn off the heat and stir in the rice and bell pepper. Sprinkle with cilantro (optional) and serve.

*You could use rotisserie chicken or leftover chicken breasts that you previously cooked. Alternatively, you could cut-up uncooked chicken breasts into 1/2 inch chunks and add them to the pot in the beginning to the heated olive oil. Stir and cook the chicken until it’s lightly browned, then add the onion, carrots, etc.

Advertisements

Christmas Cocktail Competition

Standard

Two years ago, when I announced I would be making my Cranberry Margaritas while home for the holidays, my brother decided to also make a cocktail that same night to compete. He claimed he would make a cucumber gimlet that would beat my margarita! With that, a tradition was started. Last year, we held a rematch and everyone wanted to join in! 5 cocktails were officially entered:Christmas Cocktail CompetitionContestants had to make enough of their drink so that everyone could taste it. With this many cocktails, the judging got a bit difficult! To kickoff the competition, each person introduced their cocktail, shared the name of it, how it was made, and any creative backstory that goes along with it.Christmas Cocktail CompetitionMy Dad’s “Mac Attack” had serious wow factor, named after it’s potential to cause a heart attack! This entry was a cocktail and meal in one! We all knew we were in trouble when we saw him over by the stove frying up bacon cheeseburgers to top off his already famous and highly requested Bloody Mary.IMG_469409614 (1)My Mom created a “Twig and Berries” champagne cocktail inspired by the Wisconsin Northwoods. She looked to the great outdoors for a twig of pine to complement the “crushed elderberries and whisper of crushed ice” floating in the champagne.IMG_469409613 (1)My brother Mike’s “Kentucky Maid” was whiskey-based, muddled with lime juice, mint, cucumber, and simple syrup. This cocktail brought us back to summer and we all agreed it would be a perfect drink to sip on the dock.IMG_469409609 (1)My husband Andrew’s “No. 25” was the strongest drink by far – whiskey based with a hint of absinth. It was a tribute to William McKinley’s favorite cocktail (our 25th president of the United States). McKinley fought in the civil war, commandeered Hawaii, and most importantly, was a BUCKEYE (like Andrew)!IMG_469409611 (1)My “Mistletoe Mule” is a holiday version of my favorite Moscow Mule cocktail. I used my original recipe, but for flavoring and color, I also added 1 Tablespoon of cranberry juice and 5 dashes bitters. Plus, I stuck fresh cranberries on a stir stick for presentation points!Mistletoe MuleBelieve it or not, the “Mac Attack” did not win! We all agree that our voting system didn’t work out too well because how could a Bloody Mary topped with a bacon cheeseburger, shrimp, cherry tomato, lemon wedge, sausage, cheese, asparagus, pickle, mushroom, brussels spout, and celery not take first place?? Also, “No. 25” did not win, even though it was the most requested drink post competition. The “Kentucky Maid” and “Mistletoe Mule” tied for first and then the “Kentucky Maid” won out in a championship round the next night. For the record, I still contest this – it’s a Christmas cocktail competition, after all!!

Are you thinking that your family or group of friends would have fun with this? Maybe it’s time to host your own cocktail competition! How should the winning cocktail be picked? Here is how we plan to vote this year:

  1. Each person votes using their own scorecard and ranks each drink 1-6 (if 6 drinks are entered). 6 is for the drink you like the most, 5 is for second place, etc.
  2. All points are summed up and the cocktail with the most points wins!

The trash talking for our 3rd annual Christmas cocktail competition already started several months ago and will certainly be a topic of conversation this Thanksgiving! We are all keeping our cocktails secret, so the suspense continues for another month.

To my competitors: May the best cocktail win!

**Update: My friend Kelsey hosted her own Christmas Cocktail Competition party and it was a total hit!Christmas Cocktail CompetitionShe had 20 people over, so the “mixologists” that entered the competition were asked to make one drink for presentation in a normal glass and then samples in little Dixie cups for everyone to try. People voted on the chalkboard for their favorite cocktail. For the top three winners, Kelsey had cocktail related prizes such as a little bartender kit and ice molds. How cute is that?!

“Chopped” Dinner Party

Standard

Have you seen the TV show “Chopped” on the Food Network?? It’s absolutely one of my favorite shows to watch! The premise is four chefs compete against each other to create the best appetizer, entrée, and dessert using a basket of mystery ingredients before time runs out. At the start of each round, each chef receives 4 random ingredients that they must use, but they can also supplement with items from the pantry or refrigerator. It’s hysterical and exciting because the ingredients can be completely wild, like creating an appetizer from jumbo shrimp, chunky peanut butter, jalapeños, and sticky rice or a dessert using corn muffins, whiskey, macadamia nuts, and gummy bears – and time is very limited!

Last weekend, we created our very own “Chopped” competition at home. It was a total success! And so much fun! We convinced our two friends, Steve and Howard, to compete as chefs for an entrée round. My friend Abi and I dreamed up the mystery basket ingredients: pork loin, cauliflower, figs, and tortilla chips. We hoped the chips would be a wild card!Mystery Basket Ingredients

We also stocked up the pantry with staples that we thought the chefs might want to use. Here are some suggestions:

  • Grains/starches: rice, pasta, tortillas, quinoa
  • Fruits/Vegetables: carrots, salad greens, celery, lemons/limes, peppers
  • Canned items: diced tomatoes, beans, corn, broth
  • Aromatics/Herbs: onions, garlic, parsley, green onions, cilantro
  • We put the mystery ingredients into brown paper bags to present to the chefs at the same time. It was a suspenseful moment! Given my propensity for the dramatic, I loved making the official introductions and declaring the rules of the game :)

    Chopped Competition

    The chefs had 45 minutes to complete their entrée and plate their meal. It was fun to interview the chefs while cooking, just like Ted Allen does on the show, asking “Chef Steve, how do you feel about the tortilla chips in the basket?” or “Chef Howard, What are you going to do if you win the $10k?” Watching how they handled themselves in the kitchen was so entertaining – at times calm, at times completely focused and sweating!

    The entrees were unbelievable! We were all blown away by how delicious they tasted. Chef Steve (left) prepared “Roasted Pork Loin with a Fig Demi-Glaze and Roasted Cauliflower over a Tortilla Chip Coulis” and Chef Howard (right) prepared “Roasted Pork Loin over a Tortilla Chip, Cauliflower, and Potato Puree with Fig Relish”.

    The judges chose a Chopped Champion by rating each entrée on a scale of 1 to 5 in three categories: presentation, taste, and creativity. Then, we added up the points from all three categories to get a total score. In hindsight, for how beautiful their dishes turned out, I can’t believe I gave them paper plates for plating the photographed meal! LOLChopped CompetitionWant to try this out for yourself at home? The format could be so easily adaptable to fit your own Chopped party.

    • You could do a double date night where each couple brings a bag of mystery entree ingredients for the other couple to cook with.
    • Or, if you have multiple people wanting to compete, you could have two chefs compete in the appetizer round, two chefs compete in an entrée round, and two new chefs compete in the dessert round (being mindful that this scenario will create a LOT of dishes!).
    • This link lists all of the basket combinations seen on the TV show to give you ingredient ideas.
    • Depending on what kitchen equipment you have, you may ask guests to bring extra knives, pans, or whatever you need a second set of.
    • For our party, Abi and I provided the mystery ingredients and pantry items and then asked our guests to bring wine, appetizers, sides, and desserts…and champagne – because Abi and Chef Steve had just gotten engaged in Malibu the weekend before!!!

Engagement Hike

If you’re looking for more ideas, here’s another version of a Chopped party at home.

Let me know if you throw your own Chopped challenge!

We’re Moving to Toronto!

Standard

It’s official – Andrew and I are moving to Toronto! After 6 months of waiting, we finally got our work visas. Considering that we have only been in the same city a total of 8 weeks since getting married in September (Andrew living and working in Toronto, me living in New Orleans, working in Los Angeles, and visiting Toronto), this is exciting for a lot of reasons! Mainly, we are finally going to be able to answer the question “what’s married life like?”!!Canadian Visa

We spent an entire weekend searching for apartments, trying to find the right fit for us. We want to give this whole big city lifestyle a try, although I started to hyperventilate a bit when I saw how small these kitchens are…But we found this place downtown, that makes me feel so urban and cool! So okay, maybe I can slim down my kitchen equipment, part with my popcorn maker, Panini press , toaster…in exchange for floor to ceiling windows and living in the middle of the action!Toronto Apartment

This past month, New Orleans was absolutely electric in anticipation of Mardi Gras!! You could feel the excitement in the air. I was like a little kid cheering and catching candy from the 4th of July floats, only this time I had a margarita in one hand while trying to catch beads with the other :)Mardi Gras on Bourbon Street

I LOVED the marching bands and the illuminated floats in the night parades.

Mardi Gras Parade Float

Needless to say, February has been an action-packed month!! We are busy getting ready for the move across the border and trying to soak in as much of New Orleans as possible these last few days!

Favorite meal cooked in February: Turkey Chili – an old recipe that hit the spot in Toronto’s frigid temps (and it’s SO easy and SO healthy)

Favorite cocktail in February: I can’t get enough of these Blood Orange Margaritas!Blood Orange Margaritas

Laughed the hardest in February: playing Fishbowl with friends, but this time with a twist! We added two new rounds that had me on the ground dying laughing. See the original rules here, to which we added a 4th round, where the person has to act out a word under a bed sheet, and a 5th round, where the person can only use sound effects to get their team to guess the word.Fishbowl Game

Blood Orange Margaritas

Standard

Blood oranges are currently in season so I’ve been doing a little experimenting…and I have found my new favorite cocktail!! I can’t believe it, but I love these even more than my favorite basic fresh margarita!  Blood oranges are so sweet and delicious right now – and so pretty.Blood Oranges

You’ll want to make sure you have a good juicer, like this one, to juice your oranges (and limes). Andrew and I are crazy about this industrial juicer a friend gave us for our wedding – we take our cocktail making seriously :) I’m also enjoying this little mini measuring cup to measure ounces.Blood Orange Margaritas

I can’t tell you how delicious these are!! You just have to try one. I made these for my Valentine on Saturday – they are the perfect pink color.Blood Orange MargaritasBlood Orange Margarita

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces tequila
  • 1 ounce Triple Sec (or other orange liqueur such as Cointreau)
  • 1 ounce lime juice
  • 2 ounces blood orange juice
  • ice (I think crushed ice is best)
  • Kosher salt for rim of glass

Directions:

Salt the rim of your glass using the pictured instructions in this post. Make sure to do this before adding ice to the glass, otherwise the water from the ice will cause the salt to clump.

In a cocktail shaker, combine tequila, Triple Sec, lime juice, and blood orange juice. Add a large handful of ice and shake for a good 30 seconds to make sure it’s chilled and refreshing!

Pour into the glass, add more ice if needed, and garnish with a thin slice of blood orange if you want to be fancy. Serve immediately. (If you want to make these ahead of time, store in the fridge without any ice. Add ice when serving.)

**If you are using a shot glass or want to scale this recipe, just make sure you use 2 parts tequila, 1 part Triple Sec, 1 part lime juice, and 2 parts blood orange juice.

Moscow Mules

Standard

Have you heard of this drink? I LOVE a good Moscow Mule, any day of year! So does my family now – I’ve got them hooked! It is an incredibly refreshing vodka cocktail with a kick of ginger and hint of lime. These are so easy to make at home with the right recipe and ingredients. Why not mix up something a little different for your next cocktail hour? I know we will definitely be making these at Thanksgiving in a few weeks :)Moscow Mule / www.sarasfavoritethings.com

Ginger beer is a less sugary version of ginger ale and it is not interchangeable here. Over the last year, we have tried several different ginger beers and have found that Gosling’s is the best. There are some really bad ginger beers out there and because there are only 3 ingredients in this cocktail, it’s important that the ginger beer is good!Gosling's Ginger Beer

At our wedding, Andrew and I served our two favorite specialty cocktails. One was our all-time favorite: a freshly made margarita. We named it the “Maze-a-rita”, for my new last name – Maze! The other cocktail we served was this Moscow Mule, which we renamed the “Milwaukee Mule” that night.Moscow Mule

Wondering why drink a Moscow mule out of a copper mug? Mainly, because they are fun! But I have read that the copper keeps the drink cooler and enhances the flavors. Copper mugs can be found all over these days. I like these smooth mugs and this hammered finish. Are you looking for a fun hostess, wedding or Christmas gift? Put together a Moscow Mule basket with copper mugs, vodka, ginger beer, and maybe a lime juicer! Turns out I am behind the times here because Oprah had this Moscow Mule kit as one of her favorite things in 2012.Moscow Mule

Moscow Mules

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 shots vodka (2 shots if you like a strong drink!)
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice (about ½ a shot)
  • ½ cup ginger beer* (1 can makes 3 cocktails)
  • ice

Directions:

In a glass or copper mug, combine the vodka and lime juice first, and then pour in the ginger beer. Add a big handful of ice and stir. Serve right away.

*If using copper mugs, stick them in the freezer an hour before serving so that they are frosted.

*I’ve tried several different ginger beers and some of them have been awful (don’t buy Reed’s)! The Gosling’s brand is my favorite and the most widely available. Depending on what city you are in, you might be able to find a great local or craft ginger beer. Because there are only 3 ingredients in this drink, a bad ginger beer will make a bad cocktail.

Cheers!!

Buffalo Turkey Lettuce Wraps

Standard

Last Tuesday started off as a normal healthy day, eggs for breakfast, salad for lunch, but then work got stressful that afternoon and somehow my favorite chocolate covered almonds wound up on my desk. I got caught in one of those moments of weakness where you suddenly realize, oh god, how many did I just eat?? And then the bridal shop called to say my wedding dress was in. Are you kidding me?? The irony! (It wasn’t due until August, I thought I had more time!) I could still taste the chocolate in my mouth. While envisioning squeezing into that white gown! Time to get serious :)Buffalo Turkey Lettuce WrapsThis is the perfect meal for “I need a healthy dinner…but I want it to be satisfying too!” I make these lettuce wraps all the time because they are very lean, but seriously hit the spot. You can’t beat how quick it is to make them either. This is my go-to recipe when I’m at the grocery store without a meal plan because the ingredient list is so easy to remember.Buffalo Turkey Lettuce WrapsI have become a MAJOR fan of buffalo sauce! When something on the menu says buffalo, my eye instantly goes there. The problem is, most of the time it’s coating something unhealthy, like breaded and fried wings. Plus, restaurants generally combine their buffalo sauce with a ton of butter, which is fattening and not an option with my lactose intolerance. This recipe calls for the just the sauce by itself, so you get that great flavor without the heavy calories.Buffalo Turkey Lettuce WrapsMy favorite recipes are ones that you can cook once and eat for several meals. These lettuce wraps definitely fall into that category. However, when I make these for Andrew and myself for dinner, there are generally no leftovers! You’ll certainly feel full, but guilt-free since they are so healthy!

Buffalo Turkey Lettuce Wraps

Serves: 2-4 (2 if you are hungry and serve these alone; 4 if you make them with a side)

  • ½-¾ cup diced onion
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped
  • 1 package ground turkey
  • ½ cup Buffalo Sauce (I use Frank’s)
  • 1 head butter lettuce or iceburg lettuce
  • Celery
  • Shredded or chopped carrots
  • Optional: blue cheese or goat cheese crumbles

First, rinse the lettuce, so that the cups will be dry by the time everything is done cooking.

Add the onion to a pan over medium heat and cook until soft, about 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then, add the garlic for about a minute, until fragrant, stirring to prevent the garlic from burning.

Add the ground turkey to the pan with the onion and garlic and stir it around every few minutes to make sure the meat cooks evenly and all the way through. Add some salt and pepper at this point if you like. If there is liquid in the bottom of the pan when the meat is done, you may want to drain that out. Then, reduce the heat to low and add the buffalo sauce. Stir the mixture until it’s all coated with sauce and let it simmer for a few minutes.

Delicately pull apart the butter lettuce or head of iceburg lettuce so that you have cups. Put a couple cups on each plate, fill with a few scoops of the ground turkey and sprinkle with shredded carrots, chopped celery, and maybe even some cheese crumbles. Make sure to serve with napkins!

 

**If you’re loving the idea of lettuce wraps for a light summer meal, another one of my other favorite recipes is these Chicken Nectarine Lettuce Cups.