Taco Tuesday Side - The Best Beans Ever

Yesterday I posted the recipe for these chicken tacos and mentioned that I made the best beans ever to go with them. I'm not exaggerating. These were the best. beans. ever. I can never go back to canned beans again. 

Here are a few thoughts on the beans: I used this recipe for "Traditional Tejano Pinto Beans" but changed a few things based upon ingredients I already had at home. The recipe actually gave three different options for cooking: stovetop, slow cooker on high and slow cooker on low. I (surprise surprise) opted for the slow cooker method which let me leave the beans simmering all day and gave me the option to leave the house and tend to my toddler (I'm totally in love with my crockpot). The recipe said the beans would take 8-10 hours to cook using the low setting. Well, I ended up cooking my beans for twelve hours. Twelve! Thankfully I prepared them the day before we'd be eating them (I planned for disaster), but if you are wanting to eat them the same day, be sure to put them in early! Finally, the original recipe called for a ham hock to simmer with the beans (I was, like 65% sure this meant a ham bone). Well, I went to two different fancy markets and came away empty handed from their butchers - no ham hocks. I was set to use a slab of bacon instead when I had to make an impromptu run to our closest (and smallest) grocery store located in our small downtown. I figured since I was there, I'd ask about the ham hock. And what do you know, that small downtown grocery store had them! They came in a pack of two for $4.50, so I used one and froze one.

Now, besides the ridiculously long time these beans need to cook, they are very easy to make. The ingredients are literally just dumped into the crockpot, and that's it (besides a bit of mashing at the end). So, are you ready? First you need some dried pinto beans. I used the entire package of the Simply Balanced ones from Target, which amounted to three cups (but any brand of course will do). Rinse the beans and place in the slow cooker, then cover with one chopped onion, two cloves peeled garlic, and half a tablespoon of sugar. Next, throw in a jalapeño with a slit down the side (this will be discarded at the end and adds just a bit of spice and depth to the beans). 

Now you're ready for the liquid. The original recipe used chicken bouillon and water, but we buy this stock from Costco so I always have a ton. I used two quarts which was exactly two containers (gotta love a recipe that completely uses the packaged items!). Finally, I nestled in one ham hock and turned the crockpot on low. 

Literally we went about our day, and I checked on the beans every so often. At about the ten hour mark I was worried that the beans didn't seem cooked so I let them simmer longer. Finally at twelve hours, I realized that they were plenty cooked, but still swimming around in quite a bit of liquid. I began transferring the beans and liquid to a large glass bowl. The original recipe didn't call for any smashing, but I wanted my beans refried-style, so I grabbed a potato masher like this one and got to smashing. I ended up using a good amount of the leftover liquid, but not all of it (add depending on the consistency you want your beans). I wish I had saved some of the liquid, though, because the beans definitely soaked up the liquid overnight as they rested, and I would have totally added more of it the next day had I saved it. I discarded the ham hock and jalapeño (as for the garlic and onion, they just kind of dissolve after being cooked for so long!). Now, by this time it was nearing ten at night, but I ended up standing in the kitchen and eating a fair amount of these beans straight from the bowl! I wanted just a taste, but they were so good I couldn't stop! Also, jut to note, they did seem a bit spicy coming straight from the pot, but after they rested for a day I tasted zero heat. So, in conclusion, best. beans. ever. 

The Best Beans Ever

3 cups dried pinto beans, rinsed
1 diced onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 jalapeño (slit down the side)
1 ham hock
2 quarts good-quality chicken stock

Place all items in a slow cooker. Simmer on low for 10-12 hours. Transfer beans and desired amount of cooking liquid to a large bowl and mash. Serve with a squeeze of lime. Try not to eat entire bowl ;)

*This recipe makes a lot of beans! I figured I would freeze a portion of them, but we managed to gobble them up in just a few days so that wasn't needed! They were delicious on their own, but they'd also work in taco salads, seven-layer dips and bean burritos. 


Taco Tuesday - Adobo Chipotle Chicken Tacos

Although husby would be happy if I made the same tacos every single Taco Tuesday, it's fun to switch it up with new recipes and new flavors. Enter: Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce. 

Chipotles are smoked, dried, jalapeños. When pureed with the adobo sauce they come in, they make a spicy, smoky red sauce that's totally different from the flavors I usually cook with on Taco Tuesday. I also switched it up and went with ground chicken this night. Living on the edge, I tell ya ;)

The Filling:
The Adobo Chipotle Ground Chicken was adapted from a Rachel Ray recipe in her June magazine. She inspired me to use ground chicken, which I almost never cook with so it was a nice change of pace. While the chicken was browning, I pureed an entire can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. I busted out our Baby Bullet (previously used for making baby food), but a small blender or food processor will work as well. You'll only need a couple tablespoons or so to flavor the chicken, so I used a little to make a chipotle crema and froze the rest in a ziplock baggie. After the chicken cooked for a bit, I added the spices, chicken stock, and the chipotle puree, and let it all simmer. Warning - the filling is going to be a bit spicy! To tone down the heat, try adding less of the chipotle puree. 

The Topping: 
I served the chicken in charred white corn tortillas (I just heated them up on a skillet), and topped the tacos with a chipotle crema (sour cream mixed with a bit of the chipotle puree). However, this was spicy/smoky on top of spicy/smoky. If you want to counterbalance the chipotle sauce, try sour cream on its own. I also added quick pickled red onions and jalapeños (to take the spice down, just pickle the onions). 

The Sides: 
I used our CSA corn and made Mexican Sweet Corn Cake (find the recipe I used here). I had to go to a few different stores to find masa, the very fine, dried, powdered corn used to make corn tortillas. I only used a small amount for the corn cake, so I'm excited to use the rest to make homemade corn tortillas! I also served the tacos with homemade beans. Oh. My. Word. These beans need their own post so come back tomorrow for the recipe! 

Adobo Chipotle Chicken Tacos

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 lb. ground chicken
1 white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
pinch ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons pureed chipotles in adobo
1 tsp. agave
1 lime

For serving: white corn taco shells (heat and char in a skillet)
pickled jalapeño and red onion
chipotle crema

Heat oil in a skillet and brown the ground chicken (3-4 minutes). Add onion, coriander, cumin and cinnamon, and stir. Add chicken stock, chipotle puree and agave. Simmer 10-15 minutes. Add a squeeze of lime before serving. 

Chipotle Crema

Sour cream
Pureed chipotles in adobo

Scoop out as much sour cream as desired into a small bowl. Add a very small amount of chipotle puree and mix. Add more chipotle puree to taste. 

Quick Pickled Jalapeño and Red Onion

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon agave
salt and pepper
half red onion
1 jalapeño 

In a medium bowl, whisk together red wine vinegar, olive oil, and agave. Season with salt and pepper, Add half a red onion and one chopped jalapeño. Let sit, stirring occasionally to mix. 


A Birthday and a Cake!

Today is my amazing husby's birthday! We celebrated early yesterday on his birthday eve since today is a workday. Husby requested a "light and fluffy chocolate devil's food cake with chocolate chips" for his birthday. After perusing Pinterest (and finding a cake that did fit the bill over on Kevin and Amanda), I eventually found the exact cake he was describing (from his childhood) in a recipe binder that belonged to his mom! 

 The cake is actually a bundt cake - we have just a normal bundt cake pan, but I think something modern like this one would be awesome to use! The cake itself was super simple and super easy to make (the recipe utilizes a box mix, score!). 

It didn't call for a frosting, but I ended up making the chocolate buttercream recipe found on the back of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Unsweetened Cocoa Pouch. The frosting is seriously to die for and we always have the ingredients on hand.

 The chocolate buttercream frosting totally put the cake over the top, and made it ultra decadent (I think it would be fantastic with just some powdered sugar sprinkled on top as a frosting alternative). Either way, make this cake! You won't be sorry. 

Both my boys loved it!

Happiest of birthdays to my husby!!


Friday Faves

1. The Little Blue Truck Board Bookis one of our very favorites around here. So, how excited was I to see that there is another book in the series coming out next month?! Preorder Little Blue Truck's Beep Along Book here- I know Parker is going to love it!

2. Look who was a winner in the Downtown Huntsville summer Instagram contest? I suppose Max was actually the winner since he snapped the photo ;)

3. Speaking of Downtown Huntsville, how cute are these lending libraries that are currently around the town square? So far this summer, there has been pop-up mini golf, pop-up pin ball, and now these lending libraries (in partnership with local artists and the public library). We are totally Star's Hollow from Gilmore Girls, right??

4. Husby had a little business trip this week so it was just me and Sweet P for a couple days.

Fresh flowers always help when husby is away!

But also, how cute was this? Husby set little reminders for me to pop up on my phone while he was gone. I heart!

5. Speaking of my phone, it was put to good use FaceTiming this bundle of love. 

Parker was so curious about his new cousin! I can't wait for them to meet :)

Linking up for Friday Love!


Taco Tuesday - Margarita Marinated Grilled Fish Tacos & Coconut Rice

OMG y'all. We have a new favorite fish taco recipe. I mean, margarita is in the title. How could they not be a hit?? Also, I busted out the grill pan for these tacos and it made all the difference. Husby and I (and little man) polished off over a pound of fish - that's a lot, right? It was that good. The whole meal had a tropical vibe - perfect for summer. Or, for winter when you are dreaming of summer!

The Filling:
Start by making the marinade for the fish. I love that this can be done ahead of time (a win for this mom!). The marinade is based off a Rachel Ray recipe from her June 2015 magazine. I say "based off" because her recipe was a bit involved. For instance, she instructed that the marinade be pureed in a food processor. This mamma had no time for that! I was chopping all the ingredients anyway, so I skipped the food processor step (saving extra dishes along the way, score!). I also skipped the cumin in the recipe because I've been feeling a bit overloaded on that spice lately. What I did mix together was cilantro, tequila, lime juice, vegetable oil, Grand Marnier, agave, and garlic. I put the marinade in a gallon-size ziplock bag and added the mahi-mahi I had picked up at the fish market earlier in the day. I don't think I had ever cooked mahi-mahi before (I usually pick up halibut or cod) but Rachel Ray used mahi-mahi, and they had it available when I went to buy the fish, so I went for it! When it was time for dinner, I heated up the grill pan on the stove and grilled the corn tortillas until they charred a bit. Ohmygoodness, this took them to a whole new level. Then I just took the fish pieces out of the ziplock back and grilled them directly on the grill pan. The fish was fantastic. And made even more delicious after a squeeze of grilled lime. Ten points for Rachel Ray. I must say, her recipes are hit or miss. Some I make once and never again, and some I live for. Her pumpkin peanut butter scallops? I was brave enough to make those and they are still my favorite fall dish

The Topping: 
I did a pico de gallo made of tomatoes and white onions from our CSA basket, plus cilantro, lime juice, and salt and pepper. I didn't measure anything, I just mixed until it looked right. I also made an avocado crema (avocado mashed with a little sour cream and lime juice) - again, no measuring, just to taste! I do like to use a citrus squeezerwhen I'm preparing tacos because I find myself using so much lime juice. I kind of wish I had also added cabbage to the tacos so they had a bit more crunch.

The Side:
Coconut rice was the perfect accompaniment to these tacos. To make the rice, I heated up a teaspoon of oil in a saucepan, and used it to coat the rice. Then I added the salt, a cup of coconut milk, and a quarter cup water. I brought it all to a boil, stirred, then covered and let simmer for fifteen minutes. I stirred in some cilantro right before I served it. 

The Drink:
Well, the fish was being marinated in margarita ingredients. Everything to make a margarita was literally out on the counter. I had to make margaritas. I was just being pragmatic. Instead of a regular margarita on the rocks, I switched it up and made frozen, blended mango margaritas. I loosely followed The Pioneer Woman's recipe found here. I had fresh mango on hand so I used that, and I switched out the triple sec for Grand Marnier, and the sugar for agave (since I had those items out for the margarita marinade). I halved the recipe, but it ended up being really strong still, so I added a bunch of frozen banana. Banana sounds crazy in a margarita, but it was actually the perfect addition! It balanced them out and made them super creamy. Seriously, I felt like I was on an island! Partly because I feel I only order frozen drinks while on vacay, and partly because the margarita was so delicious. 

Margarita Marinaded Grilled Fish Tacos

1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1/2 cup tequila
6 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
1 tablespoon light agave
2 cloves minced garlic

2 lbs. mahi-mahi, cut into chunks
lime for serving
corn tortillas for serving

pico de gallo
avocado crema

Combine first eight ingredients in a bowl and whisk (or, puree in a food processor). Pour marinade into a gallon sized ziplock bag. Season the maui-mahi with salt and pepper and add to the bag. Seal and refrigerate until ready to grill (at least 20 minutes). When ready to serve, heat a griddle or grill pan over medium high. Start by charring the corn tortillas (30 seconds per side) and wrap to keep warm. Next, grill the fish and lime halves (3-4 minutes for lime, 7-8 minutes for fish). Fish should be firm and browned at the edges. Transfer fish to a plate or platter and squeeze lime on top before using to assemble the tacos. Top with pico de gallo and avocado crema.

*I halved this recipe, which was plenty for our little family

Coconut Rice

1 tsp. oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup uncooked jasmine rice
1 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup water

Heat up a teaspoon of oil in a saucepan, and use it to coat the rice and salt. Add a cup of coconut milk and a quarter cup water. Bring to a boil, stir, cover and let simmer for fifteen minutes. Fluff with a fork and add chopped cilantro when ready to serve. 


Ice Cream Sunday

Happy National Ice Cream Day! I think it's perfect that this day falls on a Sunday. Sundays are for making (and eating) ice cream!

A few Sundays back, I was having fun making shapes out of a watermelon, when I realized I'd have lots of very odd-shaped pieces leftover. I figured I could puree it into a drink, or, put our ice cream maker to good use and make a sorbet. Husby's vote was for the sorbet. I searched online and was so excited to see Jeni's recipe for Watermelon Lemonade Sorbet
I discovered Jeni's just recently on a trip to Nashville with my mom and Parker. They are found in just a handful of cities across the country, and they are pretty amazing. Jeni's is based out of Ohio; they use milk from local grass-fed cows, and take other nearby ingredients to make their flavors based on what's in season. No stabilizers, dyes, or shortcuts, just incredible ice cream. 

I was super excited at the thought of making Jeni's ice cream at home!! The ingredient list was short (watermelon, lemon juice, corn syrup and sugar) but the process was a bit involved, including cooking and chilling the watermelon mix before it could be spun in the ice cream maker. Once it was going, though, it was so nice to sit back and and think how perfectly summer and perfectly Sunday it was to be making ice cream. 

I even added mini chocolate chips to part of the batch - they looked a bit like watermelon seeds, but much tastier! 

With the success of my watermelon sorbet, I wanted more Jeni's. The Nashville store is an hour and forty-five minutes from our house, which seemed a bit excessive for ice cream (though that's not out of the realm of possibility for what I'd do for ice cream). Anyway, instead I found her original ice cream book on Amazon and in two-days, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Homewas here!

OMG, y'all. This. Book. I may or may not have slept holding it that night. It's full of amazing combinations, ideas for sundaes, and even has a section on each season and which flavors highlight the tastes of that time of year. It made me want to make ice cream every day (not just on Sundays), but I held out until the weekend. 

The following Sunday, I made the plain Jeni's Ice Cream Base (also found here - it includes cream cheese!) and decided to mix and match by incorporating her recipe for Blackberry Sauce (since those are in season and our house was full of local ones). While the ice cream mix was chilling, I simply took 2 cups of blackberries and boiled them on the stove with a cup of sugar for 5-8 minutes. I let the mix cool, then forced the sauce through a sieve (this was the hardest part, put it was nice to get rid of all those blackberry seeds!). 

Here's a little tip I learned from the book: the sauce doesn't go directly into the ice cream maker. Instead, once the ice cream has been spun, scoop it into a freezer-safe container and pour the sauce in between layers. I was skeptical, but look how beautifully marbled it turned out!

Happy National Ice Cream Day!

Sweet Home Saturday - Blackberry Jamble

Every single time I make something from The Pioneer Woman it turns out fantastic. Sure, there's usually a ton of butter in the recipe, but after all, she is cooking for real cowboys. I think her story is just darling - leaving the city and moving to the middle of nowhere (to a working cattle ranch!) for love... it's like a real-life movie! Her book Black Heels to Tractor Wheelschronicles this journey - it's actually a compilation of blog posts so it's a bit repetitive at parts, but being a big fan of hers I (of course) totally enjoyed it still. 

I love her can-do attitude toward everything - despite living almost an hour away from town - and from a grocery store! I kept likening myself to her before we moved to Huntsville, thinking it would be the same kind of "roughing it" here... it's not. We can walk to the grocery store. Not to mention, we are a ten-minute drive from picking up a pair of $400 shoes. Not that I've ever purchased a pair of $400 shoes, but it goes to show we don't in fact live in the middle of nowhere. And as soon as I can figure out how to hide buying a pair of $400 shoes from husby, I'll put those stores to good use, ha!

Back to The Pioneer Woman. Her website is the first place I go to for inspiration for recipes (if I'm not already perusing Pinterest). We have tons of blackberries and blueberries this week from our Fruit Lovers addition to our CSA basket, so I wanted a dessert that used them. As soon as I saw her post on Blackberry Cheesecake Squares, I knew I had to make them. Randomly, we had all the ingredients. But here's the catch: we only had small amounts of some things. I had half a sleeve of graham crackers, an already-opened cream cheese block... I realized I could make a quarter recipe. So that's what I decided to do! Husby always points out we have tons of leftovers when I bake, so I thought halfing the recipe and then halfing it again would give us the perfect size for our little family.

I started with making a graham cracker and pecan crust in the food processor (with, of course, butter, and also a little vanilla), and pressed it into a 6x6 pan. Next up was whipping the cheesecake batter in the stand mixer, and pouring it on top of the crust. 

I had never baked a from-sratch cheesecake before, but I followed the step-by-step directions and tips and it turned out perfectly!

While the cheesecake baked, I followed the recipe for the berry topping by boiling a mix of blueberries and blackberries on the stove with sugar and water, adding a bit of cornstarch at the end. Once everything was cooled, the berry mix went right on top of the cheesecake. Almost too gorgeous to eat, no? 

Y'all, this cheesecake is twelve kinds of delicious. I will also tell you that quartering the recipe gave me a decent sized cheesecake - like, we will be eating cheesecake for days. Which is totally okay with me!

Happy Sweet Home Saturday! 
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