Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Grilled Shrimp Fajitas

I was planning out my menu for the week and I decided to make chicken fajitas.  But then the thought struck me...what about trying shrimp!  I love shrimp fajitas at restaurants and I knew they couldn't be too hard.  So I bought some shrimp, threw this recipe together and the rest is history.  My kids all loved them too.  (I still grilled a piece of chicken for my husband though.  He hates seafood in all varieties) But if you don't hate seafood you might just find these delicious too.

One quick note is that I used already cooked shrimp because I wanted to make this meal fast.  I still let them marinate for an hour and threw them on the grill to give them better flavor. But if you're not in hurry I'm sure that starting with uncooked shrimp and actually cooking them through on the grill would help give you more of the fajita flavor.  So do what you feel best about!

Shrimp fajitas
1-2 lb. shrimp (cooked)
2 limes (juiced)
1 tsp. chile powder
2 cloves garlic (minced)
2 red bell pepper (sliced)
1 green bell pepper (sliced)
1/2 medium onion (sliced)
1 avocado (sliced or chopped. See tip on how to cut an avacado by clicking here)
1 can black beans (optional)
Shredded cheddar (optional)
sour cream (optional
flour tortillas

In a large ziploc bag; combine shrimp, lime juice, chile powder and garlic. Shake until shrimp is evenly coated.  Allow to marinate in the refrigerator for about an hour.  Slice bell peppers and onion into long skinny strips.  Add bell peppers and onion to the bag and allow vegetables to be coated in the lime juice.

Place shrimp and veggies mixture in a large grill basket.  Cook over medium-high heat on your grill until shrimp is heated and veggies are softened.

Place shrimp and veggies in flour tortillas.  Top with avocado, beans, cheddar and sour cream if desired.  Roll tortilla around contents and enjoy!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

How to Chop (or Slice) an Avocado

Okay I'm back to talking about food!  You all thought I was joking about the 'how to slice an avocado" post but here it is!  I know it seems a little simple to warrant it's own blog post but I've passed this tip on to quite a few people so I decided to stick it on here!  It's a great way to chop avocado quickly without getting it all over your fingers and the cutting board. It also works great for chopping or slicing a mango. I even took step by step pictures just like all those big time bloggers! 

1) First, cut the Avocado in half and remove the pit.

 2) Next, using a knife carefully cut the fruit of the avocado into slices lengthwise without cutting the peel at all. (If you want slices for a sandwich or salad skip to step #4.  If you want it chopped move onto step #3)

 3) Cut the avocado in slices width wise to form dices.

4) Scoop out with a spoon making sure to run your spoon evenly along the peel to get all the avocado out.
5) Enjoy perfectly diced avocado in your salad without making a mess or getting it all over your fingers!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

And I have some political views...

Okay, so I realize that this blog has become primarily a food blog.  But when I first started this blog I did it because I wanted to have a place to discuss things that were important to me. Obviously my waistline can tell you that food is definitely one of those things :) However, I also have other interests like child rearing, religion, politics, etc.  So hopefully with this preface you won't think the rest of this post is too random or crazy or boring.  It's just something that's been on my mind.

So, one more time, just so we understand one another...there is no recipe that follows this rant.  It's just a good ol' fashioned political post and it's about to get pretty soapboxy in here.  But don't worry I'll be back tomorrow for a tutorial about how to slice an avocado properly :)

I've been struggling lately with how "black and white" people try to make things during an election year.  The right says something ridiculous so the left counteracts by saying something equally ridiculous trying to prove the other side wrong.  I'm worried that we get so caught up in being "Republican" or "Democrat" that we don't stop to think about what we are actually saying or how it is coming across.

The latest case of this was sparked by President Obama's remarks in Roanoke over the weekend.  I'll quote him first before I comment further.  This is the part of the remarks I've seen posted over and over.

"Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.  You didn’t get there on your own.  I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.  There are a lot of smart people out there.  It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.  Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together."

First of all, amen to the great teacher thing!  Not that the government has helped teachers out very much lately.  But seriously go give a great teacher a hug right now! I'll wait. Now I'll move on to my main point.  Do I agree with everything the President said here...no. But do I agree with a lot of it...yes! (shocked whispers) Could he have probably chosen his words more carefully and made his point better...yes.  But the thing that has really concerned me the most is some of the responses that I've seen to his remarks.

I know there is an entitlement problem in America right now.  I get that. I do.  But on the other end of the spectrum from the "everyone owes me everything" mentality is the "I did it all by myself" mentality.  And I'm sorry but that way of thinking is just as crippling as the first. Really, part of what President Obama is saying is true. If we really stop and think about our lives, all of us have had help along the way.  Maybe not from the government, maybe not financial help, but we all have support systems of some kind. Both seen and unseen.

In today's world just having parents who help teach you about hard work is a rare commodity.  I'm a hard worker.  I know that work is important and that working hard has very positively affected my life.  But I can also easily identify people and programs who have helped me get here.  First, I had parents who were involved in my life.  They valued education and hard work.  What if they didn't?  What if all the role models in my life hadn't taught me right from wrong?  Or didn't know how to work?  Or abused government programs to make a living?  Would I still be a hard worker?  I don't know.  And I think most people out there, if they are being truthful with themselves, don't know either because they've never been in that situation. This is  a good argument for being slow to judge.  Do we really want to condemn a generation based on the sins of their fathers? So yes, maybe I work harder at things than some people, but I had a lot of motivation to do that from positive role models in my life.

Some other examples: when I was in college I had to work early mornings cleaning the shared bathrooms in the freshman dorms in order to pay my tuition. (Hard work) But I also attended a church school where I enjoyed having a tuition bill that was about a quarter of the price that many of my friends paid at state schools.  And the reason my tuition was lower was because of the contributions of thousands of church members throughout the world.  My husband's employer (a government lab) paid for his graduate work.  My daughter has cerebral palsy and has received a lot of her therapies from a state funded program that employs P.T.s, O.T.s and speech therapists.  These are just a few of the ways I've been helped; saying that I did everything on my own would not only be ungrateful it would be untrue.  So yes, I'm a hard worker but I didn't get the life I have completely on my own.

Another point the President makes is that just because someone is less fortunate doesn't mean that they aren't a hard worker.  No matter how well we plan out our lives, any one of us can find ourselves in need of charity at any moment.  There are things that happen that you can't stop.  Health needs, loss of job, death in the family, etc.  But in argument, some people will say "yes, but I don't mind giving help to people who deserve it".  But don't we learn that true charity can come when we help people who maybe don't deserve it?  We can't just say people who succeed are workers and people who don't are lazy.  It is getting harder and harder to "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" so to speak.  Are there lazy people out there...sure.  But does that justify not giving government help to anyone?

I've also heard the argument "Give a man a fish, he eats for a day.  Teach a man to fish he eats for a lifetime".  I understand the sentiment behind it.  But I just think it's a combination of the two.  It's important to teach people to fish but there is also a time to just give a man a fish.  If we want to get scriptural about it we could do that too.  Does God want us to work hard during our life? Yes!  But I also seem to remember that Christ handed out a free fish or two during his ministry without requiring anything back.  He didn't just feed people who agreed with him, he fed everyone who asked.

So basically what I'm saying is...I know most people, if they really stop to contemplate their life, are going to realize that each of us is profoundly affected by the sacrifices, large and small, of others.  And that sometimes we accomplish things as individuals and sometimes we accomplish things in a group.  All of us owe a debt of gratitude to the patriots who founded our country or to the men who've served in the armed forces.  And I know that most people realize these things, they just get so caught up in the party system that they end up saying things that they don't really mean.

I just can't seem to fit Christ's ministry into a single man-made political party.  It just doesn't fit.  His message was about love and about doing what is right.  Many of us have differing opinions about how best to do that within the realm of "politics".  So we each have a responsibility to make our personal beliefs mesh with our political beliefs.  And allow all men to do the same. 

My personal belief is that we need to find some balance before we are going to heal the wounds that are running rampant in our country.  At some point we are going to have to evolve past a two party system.  We have to stop thinking "what would the republicans do" or "what would the democrats say" and start thinking what do I, as a person, want to do and say.  Then maybe our leaders will be able to stop representing a party and get back to representing the people.  But in the meantime, try to look for the good in one another.  Each side has good points.  Don't say things you don't mean and can't take back.  Don't let yourself get sidetracked from the actual issues by getting caught up in the "media madness" of it all.  The media knows when something will make a ripple...a misquote, a stumble, etc.  They try and reel you in with things like "Republicans hate working moms" or "Democrats hate small business owners".  Take the time and research these issues for yourselves.  Don't just read one article about something and call it good.  Know your sources...because they each have their own slant.  Each of us has the right to vote our conscience and decide for ourselves what side of the issues we are on.  Don't just let Anderson Cooper make up your mind for you.  Although he is really attractive! (Seriously ladies, you know what I'm talking about).

So I'm not trying to say that the President was right about everything he said.  I'm not trying to say that he has all the right answers to those problems.  I'm just trying to remind everyone that it's not just cut and dry, right or wrong.  I think he made a lot of good points. "The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together."

 I just don't want people to let "party affiliation" block them from seeing that sometimes the "other side" actually makes a little bit of sense. 

Soap Box over. Now it's your turn...discuss...

Monday, July 16, 2012

Grilled Pineapple and Teriyaki Chicken

So here's the story: Last week I went to Tucanos for the first time and now I'm obsessed with grilled pineapple!  I vowed upon leaving that I would learn how to make it (as well as the grilled parmesan veggies, YUM!)  Then, my neighbors put together a potluck block party and I decided to give grilled pineapple a try.

Also, interesting side note: do you know what the outside of a pineapple is called?  When I started typing up the instructions for this recipe I realized that I didn't.  Skin? Husk? Rind? Peel? So I decided to look it up and I found out that the internet didn't know either!  It's called all of those things by one source or another.  One website even said it was called "the eyes". And Wikipedia didn't even address it.  So I still don't know the answer...give me your opinion!

Usually when I grill pineapple I do it in rings but I wanted the pineapple to go farther so I decided to cut it in spears.  And I have to say I really preferred the pineapple that way for grilling.  It cut up faster and I didn't seem to lose as much juice cutting it up that way.  Then I rolled each piece in a little bit of cinnamon and brown sugar.

I decided to serve it with chicken kabobs using a teriyaki sauce recipe from my "our best bites" cookbook.  I think the two went together great!  So I'll post both recipes here.  Give them a try together or seperately!

Grilled Pineapple
1 fresh pineapple
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Slice pineapple into fourths remove the core and the husk/rind/skin.  Cut fourths into long spears (about 1 in. in width).  Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together in a large bowl.  Roll each of the spears in the cinnamon mixture, lightly dusting all the pineapple.  This helps draw out the juice and causes instant carmelization when you put it on the grill.

Place spears directly on grill.  Cook about 4 minutes on each side or until pineapple is warmed through and juicy with lightly browned edges.

Teriyaki Chicken Kabobs (Using "Our Best Bites" sauce recipe)
3 or 4 large chicken breasts (chopped into 1 in. cubes)
10 wooden skewers (about 12 in. in length)
warm water to soak skewers in

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 T. cornstarch
1 T. cold water

Fill a 9x13 pan half way with warm water.  Soak wooden skewers in the warm water for 20 min. while you make the sauce.

For the sauce, combine sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, ginger and pepper in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until boiling.  In a small container, whisk together the cornstarch and water.  Add the cornstarch mixture to the boiling soy sauce mixture and continue to cook until thickened.  Remove  from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Cut uncooked chicken into 1 in. cubes. Remove skewers from water and dump out water from the pan.  Place chicken pieces on the skewer one at a time making sure to leave a little space between each piece so that they can cook evenly.  When all of your chicken is on the skewers.  Place the kabobs in a shallow dish (I used the 9x13 pan from step 1) and pour Teriyaki sauce over them (reserving 1/2 cup for basting on the grill).  Turn each kabob once to make sure they are fully coated.  Let marinate for about 4 hours (longer is fine too).

Grill kabobs for about 10 minutes on each side, basting periodically with the reserved Teriyaki sauce.  When chicken is cooked, remove from the grill, and enjoy!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Oreo Truffles

Oh dear! I'm not sure how I forgot to blog about these sweet truffles!  I made them along with chocolate covered strawberries for a wedding shower which was approximately 5 months ago I think!  That was during the 6 months of radio, I mean internet, silence the neighborjulia blog observed in memorial of my remaining sanity (which was lost when the twins were born!).

I stole this recipe from my sister/friends Rachel and Maria via facebook.  Two awesome ladies that I grew up next door to in the great state of Washington. I carefully intercepted said recipe and I'm now sharing it with the world! (The world being the 5 of you who still check this blog).  

Now a word of caution. while these are extremely delicious and easy to throw together (as mentioned above) I do have to admit there was a moment where I was mixing crushed Oreos together with cream cheese that I felt a little guilty about what I was about to eat...but it soon passed and then I was dippin' those suckers in chocolate and rainbow sprinkles!  Also, beware these are super duper sweet...one or two will do ya!  And the recipe makes a big batch so you'll have plenty to share!


Oreo Truffles
1 package oreos, crushed to fine crumbs
1 8 oz package cream cheese softened
melting chocolate

To crush the oreos I placed them in a gallon sized ziploc bag and rolled over it with a rolling pin.  Shake the bag and repeat until the oreos are in fine crumbs. 
Line a large baking sheet with waxed paper. 
Mix crushed Oreos and cream cheese in a medium sized bowl. Roll into bite-size balls (mine were about 1 in).  Dip in melted chocolate and set on wax paper cookie sheet.  You can decorate with melted white chocolate drizzled on top or dip them rainbow sprinkles (as pictured) Rachel also suggested crushed peppermint candies for a Christmas treat. Refrigerate for 1 hour to set. Yum!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Tomato, Bacon and Cheddar omelet

This is one of the first things I remember making as a kid.  When I was in high school this was an easy meal to make if I'd get home late from practice. I would make these for my mom when she had late meetings and things like that too. I know...I was probably the best kid ever, right mom? ;) 

I've made different flavor combos of omelets now but this is still my favorite.  Tomato, cheddar and bacon...perfect!  Serve it with whole wheat toast and you've got yourself a winner. Give it a try and see how it suits you.  Maybe make it for your mom when she comes home tired.  Maybe she'll go easy on you the next time you break curfew :)

Tomato, Bacon and Cheddar Omelet
3 eggs
1 T. butter
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4 cup cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped tomato (divided)
2 pieces cooked bacon (divided)

Crack the eggs into a small bowl and scramble.  Melt butter in a small frying pan making sure to coat the entire pan.  Pour eggs in pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cook over medium low heat.  When eggs are cooked about 1/2 way through it's time to flip them!  Using a large pancake turner flip the eggs all at one time.  If the omelet rips it's no big deal. Just make sure all the eggs get turned over and push the pieces back together with your spatula. 

When eggs are almost cooked through, top with cheese, 1/3 of the tomatoes and a piece of the bacon crumbled.  Fold eggs in half over the toppings.  Cook over low heat until the cheese is melted.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Take the remaining tomatoes and add to the pan.  Cook over low heat until tomatoes are cooked through and slightly browned.  Top the omelet with cooked tomatoes and the remaining crumbled bacon.  Enjoy!

Red, White and Blue Strawberries

I meant to post this in time for the Fourth of July but I have these twins and all... I know that really doesn't have much to do with why I didn't post this earlier, but one of my friends told me that I could use that as an excuse whenever I needed to, so I decided to give it a try.  Did it work?

At any rate, these were super cute and the girls loved it.  I saw a picture of these on pinterest and decided to give them a try for the 4th.  They took about 10 minutes to prepare and then I let them harden in the fridge.  It would be a great recipe to have kids help you with too!

They were perfect to let everyone snack on while we finished up the grilling and whatnot for dinner. Give them a try the next time you are in a patriotic mood.  But, strawberries dipped in white chocolate and colored sugar would probably still taste okay even if they aren't served on a holiday. 

Red, White and Blue Strawberries
1 lb. carton of strawberries (rinsed)
3 blocks white chocolate candy bark (melted)
1/2 cup blue sugar sprinkles

After rinsing each strawberry make sure all the water is dried off of each one so that the chocolate will stick.  Melt white chocolate slowly according to package directions.  Dip each strawberry 2/3 of the way into melted chocolate and then immediately into the sprinkles (making sure to leave some of the white showing).  Place on a flat surface and allow to harden.  I placed them in the fridge for about an hour to chill and removed them a few minutes before serving to soften slightly.