Time to Eat

Banana carmel bites

Posted by on Feb 24, 2015 in breakfast/brunch, eating/food, Featured, Food, Margarita Mama, Recipes | 4 comments

Snowed in? Tired of leftovers? Kids driving each other crazy?

That all sounds about right this week.

With another wintry blast headed our way, there’s only one thing to do — bake something easy and delicious.

I actually made these banana carmel bites as part of our Valentine’s Day breakfast, along with a little sausage and fruit. But these would be super as dessert on a cold night, too.

banana carmel bites

I’m still in a puff pastry period right now, clearly. It’s super easy to whip something up with it that everyone in the house falls in love with. And it seems So Fancy, a la Iggy.

I didn’t think this one out much in advance. I just looked around to see what we had that would go together, and this is what I ended up with.

banana carmel bite ingredients

Ingredients:

  • puff pastry
  • 2 bananas, cut in slices
  • Philly brown sugar and cinnamon cream cheese
  • jar of caramel
  • chopped pecans

Thaw the puff pastry on the counter while you’re getting the rest of your bidness together. When it’s just slightly chilled, right before it’s about to turn sticky, it’s go time.

Spread the cream cheese first, then layer banana slices on top. Then drizzle the carmel and top with chopped pecans. When it looks like this, it’s time to roll.

This is how we roll

After I rolled it up, I cut slices and placed them on a greased baking sheet, then brushed the tops with a little egg wash. Bake according to the puff pastry’s package directions, which may vary with the brand. These took less than 15 minutes.

Plate and top with an extra banana slice or two, a bit more carmel and a little more pecans. Sooooooo good. And perfect for sharing the love — we could all use a little more of that.

xoxo,

Margarita Mama

Greek pork skewers

Posted by on Feb 13, 2015 in eating/food, Featured, main dish, Margarita Mama, pork, Recipes, side dishes, Uncategorized | 0 comments

A hearty yet simple meal that’s sure to please a crowd is Greek pork paired with mediterranean-flavored rice and a crisp salad.

Four ingredients, and the main meal is done.

Four ingredients and the main meal is done.

Cube up a pork loin, liberally sprinkle on greek seasoning, a good steak seasoning blend and lemon olive oil. You can also do this a day ahead of time — the longer it marinates, the more delicious it will turn out.

When you’re ready, skewer ‘em up and them get sizzling on a stovetop grill pan.

Meanwhile, make a pot of rice. When it’s finished, add in some olives and grape tomatoes sliced in half. A touch of seasoning there helps, too.

Greek pork with mediterranean rice

Greek pork with mediterranean rice

Done — and delicious. Even the little girls in our house dug into this one, and that doesn’t happen every day.

What’s on your dinner plate tonight? I’d love to hear!

xoxo,

Margarita Mama

Buffalo cheese pinwheels

Posted by on Feb 1, 2015 in Dips & appetizers, eating/food, Food, football, Margarita Mama, Recipes | 6 comments

The best thing about football season, hands down, is party food.

I tend to stick with the same winners over time — veggie tray, Rotel cheese dip, chicken wings. But for this Super Bowl, I experimented a little bit. And I have to say, I was pretty happy with the results.

Buffalo cheese pinwheels are a spicy little bite, and they come together in just about 20 minutes. Can’t beat that!

buffalo cheese puff pastry pinwheels

This snack is super easy. All you need is frozen puff pastry, a beaten egg and something to put in the middle. This time, I grabbed a container of prepared buffalo and blue cheese spread. Boom.

puff pastry ingredients

Just thaw the pastry on the counter. Then brush with the egg wash and spread on the cheese fairly evenly.

buffalo cheese spread

Roll it up, slice it and place the pinwheels on a greased baking sheet at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until the puff pastry is golden.

Voila, that’s it. So good. Enjoy!

xoxo,

Margarita Mama

Healthy kid lunches

Posted by on Jan 3, 2015 in eating/food, Food, Health, kid stuff, Margarita Mama, school | 6 comments

Now that the new year has begun, I’m ready to detox a bit from all the holiday treats and sweets that surrounded us the past few weeks and get back in the school-days routine.

In our house, a good part of this will include planning out our family’s lunches so that mom and dad are not grabbing something unhealthy in a time crunch and that Ava will find her meal delicious and filling. (The twins are still eating daycare-provided lunches, so they’re all set during the week.)

Photo courtesy of the Sells Agency

Photo courtesy of QualChoice/Sells Agency

Ava would eat the same thing every single day if I let her. Her palate is generally limited to Lunchables or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, with either an applesauce GoGo Squeeze or a yogurt tube. So I’d like to get her to branch out a bit.

Every once in awhile, I can sneak in a pasta salad of some kind or cut up squares of cheese pizza. Maybe even a bagel. But we could use a spark of inspiration.

Here’s a few handy tips on healthy kid lunches that QualChoice of Arkansas has offered:

PORTIONS: The USDA recommends tennis-ball sized portions of vegetables and whole grains, golf-ball sized portions of fruit and lean protein, and a pink pong ball portion of low-fat dairy. (Prepackaged items can often be a little more expensive, but I’ve come to realize that the portion control and ease of packing is a good tradeoff.)

Photo courtesy of the Sells Agency

Photo courtesy of QualChoice/Sells Agency

PRODUCE: The great thing about fruits and veggies is they deliver lots of nutrients and they don’t require cooking. It’s best to keep produced washed and cut in the fridge so there isn’t a lot of prep work. Great options for this are: cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, cucumber slices, berries, apples, pears and grapes. (Ava always loves her carrot sticks with a little cup of ranch dressing.)

veggie ideas

Photo courtesy of QualChoice/Sells Agency

WHOLE GRAINS: For a crunchier side, pack multi-grain chips or pretzels instead of potato chips. Whole grain pita pockets and tortillas are also a great alternative and are easy to fill with lunch meats, salad mixes and more.

Photo courtesy of the Sells Agency

Photo courtesy of QualChoice/Sells Agency

PROTEINS & DAIRY: Proteins come in many forms – not just meat. You could pack a  wrap or sandwich with lean turkey, or you could include a hard-boiled egg. Also, sharp cheddar cheese and Greek yogurt offer a great source of protein and dairy.

Photo courtesy of the Sells Agency

Photo courtesy of QualChoice/Sells Agency

HYDRATION: Instead of juice boxes, include a small bottle of frozen water. The ice will keep the rest of the lunch cool, and will melt enough by lunchtime to be drinkable.

Photo courtesy of the Sells Agency

Photo courtesy of QualChoice/Sells Agency

SNACKS: After school or on the weekends, healthy snacks can help curb overeating later.  Pack a baggie of popcorn for a 100% whole grain snack, or try almonds mixed with dried fruits, whole fruits or pretzels.

Photo courtesy of the Sells Agency

Photo courtesy of QualChoice/Sells Agency

Happy lunching out there! And if you have more ideas or handy tips, I’d love to hear them. Please share!

xoxo,

Margarita Mama

Green Chicken Chili

Posted by on Dec 28, 2014 in chicken, crockpot, main dish, Recipes, soup | Comments Off

Got this one from a cookbook — Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution — that Hubs picked up at work.

We made it the other night and found it to be quite yummy!

Ingredients

2 lbs poblano chiles, stemmed, halved and seeded

2 onions, chopped (I used just one due to Hubs’ aversion to all things onion)

6 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons canola oil

1 1/2 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce

3 cups chicken broth

One 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes

salt and pepper to taste

3 chicken breasts

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon lime juice, plus extra for seasoning

Directions

Toss poblanos, onions, garlic cumin, coriander, oil and chipotle together in bowl. Spread mixture in a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Broil until poblanos start to turn black in spots and other veggies start to soften. Flip halfway through cooking. (This will take about 15 minutes or so.)

Transfer half of the mixture to a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Transfer to slow cooker. Process the remaining mixture until smooth. Transfer to slow cooker.

Stir in broth, tomatoes (and their juice) and 1/2 teaspoon salt into slow cooker. Nestle chicken in cooker as well. Cover and cook three to five hours on low, or until chicken is tender. (Note: I sauteed the chicken briefly before putting it in the crockpot.)

When chicken is tender, transfer to cutting board and shred. Return to pot. Add cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with baked tortilla chips, avocado, sour cream, shredded cheese, etc…

Spicy-sweet meatballs

Posted by on Dec 26, 2014 in beef, crockpot, main dish, Recipes | Comments Off

A couple of people asked me to share the recipe for this dish after I made it for our newsroom potluck. Ya’ll, this is so, so easy and yummy! I first tried these at our neighbor’s house, when he threw a birthday party for his wife. My kids inhaled these meatballs, so I asked him for the recipe. He told me the main ingredients and one Google session later, voila. If you want to make your own meatballs, go for it. Just don’t make them Italian-style. If you’re preparing this in a hurry and want to use frozen meatballs, make sure you get the Homestyle ones and NOT Italian. — Arkie Mama

Ingredients

1 can (14 ounces) jellied cranberry sauce
1 bottle (12 ounces) chili sauce
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 package (32 ounces) frozen fully cooked homestyle meatballs, thawed

Directions
Mix and heat the first six ingredients until sugar dissolves. Add meatballs. Cook until tender. You can do this in a pot or crockpot, depending on your timeframe.

Enjoy!

Christmas menu

Posted by on Dec 22, 2014 in Christmas, eating/food, family, Food, holidays, Margarita Mama, side dishes | 3 comments

As we have several branches of family to celebrate holidays with, we have forged a tradition of having a big Christmas Eve meal at our house. We get plenty of ham and turkey this time of year when we travel to see other family, and I’m from a state where beef reigns supreme. So we go with standing rib roast for what is clearly our most luxurious home-cooked meal of the year.

standing rib roast

Meat for 8 people

SimplyRecipes.com has an outstanding Prime Rib Recipe that includes gravy directions. And let’s just say that if you’re going to go this route, get more than you think you’ll need. (The leftovers make excellent with sandwiches with onions, peppers and provolone.)

There’s no need for dressing with this Christmas menu, but mashed potatoes are a must. And I’ve found that Martha Stewart is my spiritual match on this issue — no joke. I promise that if you try her recipe for Perfect Mashed Potatoes, you won’t go back. I use a ricer for mine, too. Absolutely no lumps.

On the side, we’ll have honey-glazed carrots and brussels sprouts with bacon and pecans.

prepping brussels sprouts and carrots

Veggies, ready to prep

I’ve been toying around with the carrots for awhile now and have finally figured out perfection. Cut the carrots into small coins and put into a baking dish. Then add several pats of butter, no fewer than five liberal squeezes of honey and a light dusting of salt, pepper and cayenne. Bake at 425 degrees for about 45 min.

Accidentally, I wound up this weekend with a stalk of fresh brussels sprouts so huge that it wouldn’t fit in our fridge.  I decided to jump ahead and prep them up by cutting them off, chopping them in half and steaming them for about 10 minutes. Now, all we’ll have to do is cut bacon into small pieces, cook them in a large pan, dump in the brussels sprouts to reheat and coat them in bacon fat, and add in as many pecans as we’d like. Salt, pepper, done.

I’m not much of a baker — and I usually spend my efforts there on cookies for Santa. So for dessert, I hit up Fresh Market. (Where I would hide in a corner and live, if I could. All that peaceful music, and beautiful things everywhere. It’s a dream world.)

yule log from Fresh Market

yule log, the most festive dessert for Christmas

Yule Log is my husband’s thang, you might say. It’s basically a super moist and rich chocolate cake with chocolate  icing rolled on the inside as well as on top. Big glass of milk required.

And that’s it! I hope you all have a delicious holiday meal in some form or fashion. Food is love, especially on a holiday.

xoxo,

Margarita Mama

Pizzarillas!

Posted by on Dec 4, 2014 in Recipes | 1 comment

My kids learned to make this at their after-school program. Easy. Fun. Yummy.

Ingredients:

flour tortillas

pizza sauce

pepperoni slices

shredded mozarella

butter or margarine

Directions:

Heat butter or margarine in small skillet. Place tortilla in skillet. Coat with pizza sauce. (stop before you get to the edges though!) Add pepperoni and shredded cheese. Place second tortilla on top. When the bottom tortilla reaches desired crispiness, flip it!

Family pizza night

Posted by on Nov 17, 2014 in daddy, dessert, eating/food, Food, home, Margarita Mama, Uncategorized | 3 comments

You’ve heard happy wife = happy life, right? Well, I’ve got the real secret to marital bliss and family harmony.

Marry a pizza guy.

When I met Daddy, he was a pizza delivery driver. Shortly thereafter, he regularly wooed me with perfectly placed toppings brought straight to my door.

And he’s still got skills — they especially come in handy on dreary nights when it’s too cold to go out.

pizza daddy skills

Daddy’s got mad pizza skills

I mean, really. Look at this beauty (or what’s left of it, anyway):

pizza night

Oh yeah. That’s half pepperoni with cream cheese (a Nebraskan special) and half pepperoni, ham and onions

No one turns this dinner down. Especially when they get to help make their own. (Cheese only, obviously.)

pizza kids

Pizza lovin’ kids

Last but not least, this.

dessert pizza

Brown sugar cinnamon dessert pizza with a scoop of vanilla

It’s pure love. Family pizza night rocks.

xoxo,

Margarita Mama

Cajun’s Wharf Christmas Camp 2014

Posted by on Nov 16, 2014 in Arkansas Women Bloggers, eating/food, Lucky Mama | 7 comments

If you haven’t yet read the post by Heidi, aka Margarita Mama, on our recent Saturday afternoon at Cajun’s Wharf Christmas Camp 2014, please check it out here. As she said, we and about 2 dozen Arkansas Women Bloggers spent the afternoon with the Cajun’s Wharf crew, eating, drinking and having a grand ole’ time.

First up was a wine tasting with Dan, the manager at Cajun’s Wharf.

Matt drops some wine knowledge on us

Dan drops some wine knowledge on us. Did you know that Cajun’s Wharf has more than 200 bottles of wine on its wine list and more than 30 you can order by the glass? Bottoms up!

Dan let us sample  A to Z 2013 Oregon Riesling, Yali Sauvignon Blanc from Chile, Adelsheim Pinot Noir, also from Oregon, and St. Francis Merlot from California’s Sonoma Valley. My favorites were the Riesling, which was very refreshing and not nearly as sweet as many Rieslings are, and the Merlot, which was rich and lush — everything a Merlot ought to be.

Next up was lunch. Just in case you didn’t know it, Cajun’s Wharf is now open for lunch Monday through Friday. And their lunch menu is quite varied — think seafood, salads, soup, sandwiches and burgers, plus appetizers and desert.

First up were the appetizers. The table I was at couldn’t decide what appetizers to try, so our awesome server brought a little bit of everything. It was all so good, especially the Oysters Bienville, which Heidi had to convince me to try by promising it would be as good as the last oyster she talked me into eating in Gulf Shores! It was! I think I’ll definitely order the Oysters Bienville again.

As far as the other appetizers, the artichoke dip at Cajun’s Wharf has long been a favorite of mine. Oh, and I can’t leave out the shrimp and crawfish cakes with the slightly spicy cream sauce — I could have eaten the entire plate of those!

(Clockwise, starting from left) Oysters Bienville, a little bit of everything (Oysters Bienville, Crab Au Gratin, Artichoke dip, Blackened Chicken Eggrolls) and Shrimp and Crawfish Cakes

(Clockwise, starting from left) Oysters Bienville, a sampler with little bit of everything (Oysters Bienville, Crab Au Gratin, Artichoke dip, Blackened Chicken Eggrolls) and Shrimp and Crawfish Cakes

After the appetizers, it was a wonder I had room for lunch. Ha, who am I kidding — of course I had room for lunch! My pick was the Shrimp Enchiladas, a dish that combined shrimp, cheese and sour cream. It’s like they wrote that recipe just for me!

Creamy shrimp enchiladas

Creamy shrimp enchiladas

Somehow I failed to get any good pictures of desert (sorry!) but we sampled chocolate ganache Key lime pie, coconut cream pie, white chocolate bread pudding and chocolate creme brulee and a pumpkin pie. Everything was good, but my heart will always belong to chocolate creme brulee.

After all of this deliciousness, it was time to get cooking, err, cooking tips, that is!

Mary Beth Ringgold, the co-owner of Cajun’s Wharf, Capers and Copper Grill restaurants, was our teacher for the afternoon. I was thrilled to see that the recipe she was cooking for us was Mussels and Clams in Tomato Broth. Mussels are a dish that my husband makes for us occasionally, so I was excited to take him home a recipe that adds in clams!

Co-owner Mary Beth Ringgold teaches us the ins and outs of cooking clams and mussels

Co-owner Mary Beth Ringgold teaches us the ins and outs of cooking clams and mussels

Mussels and Claims in Tomato Broth

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. Mussels
  • 30 each Little Neck Clams
  • 2 TBS Olive Oil
  • 2 TBS Butter
  • 1  Shallot, minced
  • 1 each Red, yellow and green bell pepper
  • 1/2 Medium yellow onion — you can use leeks instead
  • 4 each Garlic cloves
  • 6 sprigs Fresh Thyme
  • 1 cup White Wine***
  • 1 each Lemon juiced
  • 2 cups Chicken broth
  • 2 TBS Clam juice
  • 1 can Rotel
  • Pinch of Red pepper flakes
  • 1 Fresh tomato
  • 1/2 cup Rough chopped parsley
  • 2 TBS  Butter for finishing
  • Salt and pepper to taste

*** Don’t cook with any wine you wouldn’t drink. — Mary Beth Ringgold 

 

1. Rinse and scrub the mussels and clams.

2. Discard any that have opened or have broken shells.

TIP: If a shell is just partially opened, gently tap it on the side of the stock pot or counter. If it closes back on its own, it is still alive and fine to cook. If it does not, it is dead and you need to toss it!

3. Heat oil and then butter in a stock pot.

4. Saute the onion, shallot, garlic and thyme — do them in this order, especially the onion first.

5. Add the wine, chicken stock, lemon juice and red pepper flakes.

6. Add the clam juice and the Rotel.

7. Bring to a light boil.

8. Add the Clams, bring back to a boil and cook for 3-4 minutes.

9. Add the mussels and cook until the shells start to open.

10. Add the reserved butter, parsley and fresh tomatoes.

TIP: Discard any mussels and clams if their shells do not open!

11. Serve with plenty of garlic bread or toasts.

clams and mussels in a tomato broth

Clams and mussels in a tomato broth — this tasted as good as it looks!

Next on the agenda was a whiskey tasting. Now I know what you’re thinking — You don’t like whiskey. I admit, I’ve often been sitting right there next to you on the “It tastes Yucky” bench. But apparently, we haven’t been drinking the right kind of whiskey!

What we tried were four types of sipping whiskey. All four were made in Nashville in small batch distilleries. And I liked three of the four, especially when I diluted them slightly.

The whiskeys (from left to right) Collier & McKeel Tennessee Whiskey, Belle Meade Bourbon Whiskey, Corsair Artisan Ryemageddon Rye Whiskey and Triple Smoke Single Malt

The whiskeys (from left to right) Collier & McKeel Tennessee Whiskey, Belle Meade Bourbon Whiskey, Corsair Artisan Ryemageddon Rye Whiskey and Triple Smoke Single Malt, with our musical entertainment in the back

Both the Collier & McKeel Tennessee Whiskey and the Belle Meade Bourbon Whiskey had a little bit of a sweetness to them, which really surprised me. I’ve NEVER thought that whiskey could have vanilla and maple syrup notes in it, but the Collier & McKeel did.

And being born in Kentucky, I’m glad to say I can now drink at least one type of bourbon, even if it is made in Tennessee. ;)

I can’t quite describe the Rye Whiskey, other than to say it was very smooth and I liked it. Did you know that Ryes are considered an Old World whiskey, while the Tennessee Whiskey and Bourbon are New World ones — largely because the latter two are made with corn, which was plentiful in the United States, but not Europe.

Sadly, the one I wasn’t a fan of is Corsair Artisan’s Triple Smoke Single Malt, which was named Whiskey Advocate‘s “Artisan Whiskey of the Year.” The grains in the Triple Smoke had been smoked over three kinds of wood or fuel, including peat, which is pretty cool. Unfortunately, all my novice palate tasted in the whiskey was smoke.

Our last whiskey treat was a Tennessee sipping cream by Whisper Creek. Oh my word, it was good! If you like Bailey’s, you would like this. I think this would make an excellent treat on a cold winter’s night!

Many thanks to Cajun’s Wharf for inviting us to spend the afternoon with you. I had a blast!

Heidi and me enjoying our afternoon at Cajun's Wharf!

Heidi and me enjoying our afternoon at Cajun’s Wharf!