Caldo de Camarones

caldo

 

Caldo de Camarones is a traditional Mexican soup that can be made by combining a number of different veggies and spices (and shrimp, of course). This was my first attempt at creating this dish. We tend to prefer our soups on the “stew-y” side, so I added what may seem like an unlikely ingredient – an entire head of cauliflower – to make the soup more hearty. Enjoy!

Caldo de Camarones

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

  1. 1 large onion
  2. 1 14.5 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  3. 2 large Guajillo chiles
  4. 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  5. 1 head cauliflower, chopped into small florets
  6. 3 cloves garlic
  7. 2 tsp dried Italian seasoning
  8. 3 Tbsp tomato paste
  9. 1 tsp olive oil
  10. 2 6.5 oz cans chopped clams
  11. 2 lbs shelled, uncooked shrimp, chopped into small chunks
  12. 2 cups chicken broth
  13. 3 cups water
  14. 1 bay leaf
  15. 1/2 tsp salt & 1/2 tsp pepper, plus more to taste
  16. 2 tbsp hot sauce of your choosing (I used Sriracha)


Directions

  1. Soak Guajillo chiles in water for 30 minutes, then remove seeds and stems. 
  2. In a food processor, combine the chiles, garlic, onion, Italian seasoning, and diced tomatoes.
  3. Add 1 tsp olive oil to a large soup pot on medium heat, then add your tomato puree. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Stir in Sriracha (or your favorite hot sauce) to taste. I like things spicy, so I used quite a bit.
  5. Add the juice from the clams, 2 cups chicken broth, 3 cups water, salt, pepper, and bay leaf and simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. Slowly add in 3 tbsp tomato paste and stir until blended with the broth.
  7. Add carrots and cauliflower and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until vegetables reach your desired consistency.
  8. Add the shrimp and clams. Allow stew to return to a simmer, then turn off heat, cover, and let it sit for 10 minutes.
  9. Add more salt & pepper to taste before serving.

 

This stew was DEFINITELY a winner. We love seafood and spicy dishes, so this was a double whammy. The leftovers were 10x better once the flavors had a chance to blend, so next time I might just make it ahead of time and eat it all week long. YUM!

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Thankful

healthy self
I recently joined a community of like-minded people called Healthy sELF. This group primarily consists of an ongoing newsletter  that outlines various weekly wellness challenges that we can do to improve our happiness, diets, fitness, and overall wellness. One of the goals this week was to make a list of 20 things we’re thankful for. As cheesy as it may sound, I think it’s important that we all take a step back to recognize these things on a regular basis, to keep our challenges in perspective and remind ourselves how special life really is.  So needless to say, I took them up on this little challenge.

P.S. – Anyone can join the Healthy sELF community. Just click here to get involved.

Thankful

In no particular order, I am most grateful for the following:

  1. My Family – I’m so blessed to have such wonderful families. Without my parents, there would be no me…so first and foremost I’m thankful for them. My parents have given me so much more than I can even begin to thank them for. It’s because of their love and support that I’m the person I am today. I’m also so happy to have come from a large extended family – lots of cousins, aunts and uncles make family gatherings both lively and interesting. And of course, the in-laws. I gained 3 sisters and 4 more parents last year!
  2.  My Husband – what can I say about the hubs? He’s intelligent, sweet, giving, super sexy…and he doesn’t even mind doing the dishes. Basically I’m the luckiest girl EVER.
  3.  My Friends – My friends are my lifelong companions. They bring flavor and laughter to my world. They are quirky and unique and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
  4. My Health – I have been blessed with great health thus far. Aside from a couple of crackly knees, I have never had any health concerns to speak of. I try to take care of my body so that it will take care of me.

  5.  My Home – I have a roof over my head that is safe and warm, and I own it (well, I guess the bank technically owns most of it). It may be modest and have 60 year-old windows, but we absolutely LOVE our cozy home.
  6.  My Job – That place that I go to every Monday-Friday that pays me to use my mind and creativity, allows me to write, and lets me bounce ideas around with most of the coolest companies in the Twin Cities? I’m thankful I get paid for such a cool gig.
  7. My Pets – My furry family. The best kind of unconditional love. With 2 cats, a goofball Doberman, and a ball python, I may be one of the most animal-loving people you’ll ever meet.
  8. My Mistakes – They help me learn and grow in life. My mistakes have taught me so much and allow me to continually strive to become a better person.
  9. Food – Obviously, I’m thankful for food for the physiological reasons. But food to me is more than that – being able to experience and cook new and exciting food is one of my favorite things in life.
  10. Love – I have so much love in my world. Knowing that there are so many whom I love and who love me back…let’s just stay it warms my heart and I am thankful for it daily.
  11. Experiences – good and bad, they shape my personality and make me unique.
  12. Life’s challenges – Like anyone, I have certainly had my share of them. But life goes on. The challenges I’ve endured have undoubtedly helped me to grow as a person and become stronger than I was before.
  13. Coffee – Yes, really. It gets me through the morning. And my weekly caramel latte takes me to my happy place.
  14. Ambition – My primary goal in life is to never stop learning. I am grateful for my inability to become complacent. I aim to continually evolve and learn new things that contribute to my overall happiness.
  15. Technology – It allows me to stay connected with friends I have met through different journeys all around the world. It also makes learning so much simpler. How did we ever find anything out before you could just Google the answer?
  16. Education – In the US, I think we all take for granted the fact that we are essentially “forced” to receive an education. We are so lucky that it is available to us. I feel so incredibly grateful that I was able to get a high school diploma, a bachelor’s degree, and a master’s degree. Especially because so many around the world can’t even receive an education beyond grade school.
  17. Hobbies – Hobbies are my fun zone. And we all need fun in our lives. Snowboarding, traveling, writing, dancing, singing…it’s these little things that bring flavor to life.
  18. The seasons – I am so thankful that I live and grew up in Minnesota. Yeah, our winters can be pretty harsh and tend to last about 3 months too long. But in the end, I’d much rather experience the extremes of all 4 seasons – I love the variety and the shift in mood that the changing seasons bring every year.
  19. Music – I can’t even imagine a world without music. It lifts my spirits when I’m having a bad day, and pumps me up when I need the motivation to run another mile. The right tunes even bring back memories that are buried in the back of my consciousness. This makes me happy.
  20. Travel – I have this intrinsic fascination with culture. I am so incredibly fortunate that I have been able to travel the world and experience so much thus far. The world is an amazingly fascinating place and I look forward to exploring as much of it as possible.

 

What are YOU most thankful for?

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Paleo Banana “Love Muffins”


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I made some tasty paleo banana bread awhile back and had been staring at the leftover black bananas in my freezer for quite some time. I decided to conduct a little experiment.

With last week being Valentine’s and all (and our 1-year wedding anniversary), I figured it would be appropriate to use our nonstick heart-shaped muffin molds. Muffins in the shape of little hearts – the surefire way to a man’s heart…right?

Paleo Banana “Love Muffins”

Ingredients:

– 1 cup almond flour
– 1/4 tsp salt
– 1/2 tsp baking soda
– 2 over-ripe bananas, mashed
– 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
– 1/4 cup maple syrup
– 1 tsp vanilla
– 2 egg whites

 

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Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. If you’re not using non-stick, adorable muffin molds, be sure to spray the muffin pan with non-stick spray.

2. Combine almond flour, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

3. Add mashed bananas, maple syrup, egg whites, vanilla, and Greek yogurt to a separate bowl. Whisk together until smooth.

4. Add the wet mixture to the dry  mixture and stir until completely combined.

5. Spoon into muffin molds (only about halfway up) and bake for 25-30 minutes or until  golden brown. Test doneness by inserting a toothpick in your muffins – if it comes out clean, they’re done. Note that almond meal doesn’t rise as much as regular flour. If you wanted to go the non-paleo route, your muffins would turn out a bit more fluffy.

I’m no baker, but these turned out surprisingly tasty! So tasty, in fact, that the hubs had already eaten 2 of them before I could get my camera out to snap a photo 🙂

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After Dinner Coffee-Cube Cocktail

coffee cube cocktail

 

I’m officially getting old. After a big family meal where overeating is inevitable, I could really use a nap. I’m finally beginning to understand why old people always need a cup of coffee after dinner to level themselves back out (or at least stay awake long enough to eat dessert).

Personally, I’m a bigger fan of the after-dinner drink. Just ask my friends about my go-to “banana Russian”. It’s life-changing, I promise. But for those days when you just need a little caffeine boost after dinner, I bring you the coffee-cube cocktail.

The prep work: make a pot of coffee and pour it into ice cube trays. It should fill about 2 trays. I used Dunkin’ Donuts French vanilla. Because, well, it’s the bomb.

Wait for your freezer to do it’s magic.

After dinner, put 4-5 cubes in your glass and add the following:

–          1 ½ oz Cake flavored vodka

–          1 ½ oz Kahlua

–          2 oz Bailey’s

 

I suppose the proper name for this might be a “coffee-cube cake butterfly”, but that doesn’t roll off the tongue very well.  If it sounds a little dangerous, you could always sub out the Bailey’s for milk. But then it would be called a “coffee-cube cake Russian”.

Call it whatever you want. I call it delicious.

 

Bonus: Unlike ice cubes that water down your drink as they melt, the coffee cubes just make it taste better! Enjoy!

Categories: More Eats, Recipes | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Catalina’s Restaurant

 

catalina's sign
I’m a firm believer that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. This is especially true with some of the best ethnic restaurants I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting.

Catalina’s Restaurant opened up in our neighborhood in Northeast Minneapolis about a year ago, in a small strip mall down the street.   They claim that “taste is our specialty”, and serve up both Mexican and various other Latin American cuisine.

We decided we were way past due to give Catalina’s a try. Upon walking in, I must admit that Catalina’s isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing place around…fluorescent lighting and plastic tablecloths in a tiny dining space. But seeing as taste is their specialty, we weren’t about to let the décor deter us. Besides, the space was very clean and organized, which is certainly a plus.

In true Latin American fashion, our visit started out right with a small basket of homemade chips and salsa. They had me at hello. We went through 2 of these baskets and ate every. last. drop. of the hot salsa.

 catalinas chips

 

Mike ordered the chicken burrito – a flour tortilla stuffed with beans, rice, sour cream, lettuce, cheese, and chicken. The meat was tender and super tasty with a nice smoky, cumin-y flavor.

 catalinas burrito

I ordered “la especialidad de la casa”, the scallop soup, cooked to perfection with a mixture of yucca, plantains, potatoes, scallops, carrots, and cabbage. This soup was absolutely BOMB (am I too old to use that word?). The broth was light but creamy (coconut milk perhaps?), and the sweet and savory flavors complemented one another so well. I almost licked the bowl clean.

 catalinas soup

 

I am disappointed that we waited so long to discover Catalina’s amazing food. It is a very affordable, no-frills restaurant that is truly dedicated to creating delicious food with quality ingredients. We look forward to visiting again (sooner rather than later). If you’re in the market for an authentic Mexican or Honduran meal, check out Catalina’s.

Paella for 4, anyone?

 

YUM RATING: 9.5/10

 

What’s your favorite family-owned ethnic spot?

Categories: Dining Out | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Spinach & Pepperjack Stuffed Pork Chops

We’re past due for a grocery run. However, the below zero temps around here also mean we are FAR too lazy to bundle up go grocery shopping on a Sunday. Time to do a little creative cooking.

When you eat as much chicken, fish, and pork as we do, you’ve gotta spice things up every now and then to keep it interesting. Stuffing your meat makes the standard boring protein much more exciting, and far more filling. We’ve recently been experimenting with stuffing our chicken breasts and pork chops. Today’s lunch was born out of a leftover package of frozen spinach and an otherwise very bare fridge.

stuffed pork chops

Spinach & Pepperjack Stuffed Pork Chops

Ingredients

  • 2 fresh pork chops
  • 2/3 of a 10 oz package of frozen spinach
  • 2/3 cup shredded pepperjack cheese
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Italian herb mix
  • Salt & Pepper

Directions

  • Cut a slit in each pork chop to form a “pocket” (don’t cut all the way through)
  • Thaw spinach in the microwave, then press it into a strainer to remove excess water.
  • Mix spinach with pepperjack cheese and Italian herbs/red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • Stuff pork chops with spinach mixture
  • Saute over medium heat for 6-9 minutes each side until cooked through. Season with salt & pepper.

A super simple and protein-packed Sunday lunch. Win.

 

What creations have you come up with with limited ingredients?

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Asparagus pee (and a reci-pee!)

asparagus pee

We eat a fairly decent amount of asparagus in our household. And why not? It’s a fabulous source of vitamins A, C ,E, and K, as well as fiber, folate, and chromium. It’s also a great detoxifier and is full of antioxidants that neutralize free radicals. Score. Plus it tastes yummy with butter and sea salt.

The only downside I can think of to this killer veggie?  Smelly pee. I was genuinely curious as to the cause (and I’m confident that now you are too), so I hit up Google for some answers.

According to WebMD, only about ¼ of the population has the special gene that allows them to smell the specific compounds our bodies create when digesting asparagus. This was news to me.  So everyone creates smelly asparagus pee, but not everyone can smell it. Lucky folks.

The actual smell, according to Discovery.com, is caused by a metabolite called methanethiol. As your body breaks down asparagus, it produces this chemical and tells your kidneys to transport it to your bladder. “Methanethiol is composed mostly of sulfur with a splash of hydrogen, plus some carbon, a brew famous for its effect in rotten eggs, cabbages, and paper mills” (Discovery.com, 2013). All stinky stuff. Makes sense!

Regardless of smell, we’ll continue to regularly eat asparagus, since I’m pretty sure it’s health benefits outweigh this particular shortcoming.  And now that you’re super pumped about asparagus too, how about a simple, tasty reci-pee!? (please humor me, it’s Friday).

Easy Sautéed Asparagus

Ingredients:

·         1 bunch fresh asparagus

·         1 tbsp butter

·         2-3 cloves garlic

·         Sea salt & pepper

·         ½ lemon

·         ¼ c shredded parmesan cheese

Directions:

1.     Break off the bottom 2 inches of each asparagus stalk and discard.

2.     Cut each stalk into 1-2 inch sections.

3.     Melt butter in sauté pan on medium heat – add garlic and heat until golden.

4.     Add asparagus & sauté 3-4 minutes until bright green and tender but still a bit crunchy.

5.     Add ½ a lemon worth of juice and cook for another 2-3 minutes until asparagus reaches your desired consistency.

6.     Remove from pan and toss with parmesan cheese, sea salt, and pepper. Enjoy.

7.     Think about how tasty it was the next time you go to the bathroom.

For those of you still reading…thanks for sticking around to learn about this somewhat un-PC (but quite fascinating) topic.

What other strange bodily functions should I research?

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3-Ingredient Pumpkin Spice Cookies

pumpkin spice cookies

News Flash – I don’t bake. Ever. Or as Taylor Swift would say… like ever. ever. ever.

But I am a HUGE fan of pretty much anything with pumpkin in it. And I recently learned a little trick.  Write this down. Or don’t, ‘cuz you’re smart and you will remember. Combine cake mix with almost anything, bake it, and it’s gonna taste awesome.

We were headed to a party at a friend’s place and I wanted to bring some kind of a treat. Per the norm, I wanted it to be super simple. Enter, these fab cookies.

3-Ingredient Pumpkin Spice Cookies

You’ll need: 1 box spice cake, 1 15-oz can of pumpkin, and cream cheese frosting.

pumpkin spice cake

 

Mix the pumpkin and spice cake mix together, plop some cookie-sized spoonfuls on a greased cookie sheet, and bake for 35-45 minutes or until they reach your desired consistency. They will be very soft. you could also bake it in cake form if you prefer. Personally, I’m more of a cookie gal.

Once your cookies cool, top them with cream cheese frosting. I also sprinkled pumpkin pie spice on top for a little extra pumpkin yumminess. So I guess they are actually FOUR ingredient cookies. I really need to stop lying to you like that.

These were a hit at the party and were gobbled up in no time.

 

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New Year’s Snowboarding Trip – Lutsen


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December was filled with lots of adventure (hence, my long absence from blogging regularly). A week in Jamaica, followed almost immediately by the craziness that is the Christmas holiday, and finished off with a trip up to the North Shore of Lake Superior for New Year’s. PHEW!  All of this fun is exhausting.

One of those….”wouldn’t it be fun?” conversations over Thanksgiving dinner turned into a….”yeah, let’s do this!” with my sister Jessi and her bf Joe. I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend the holiday than bundled up sailing down a hill with a board strapped to my feet.

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As a native Minnesotan who had her own skis at age two, I am completely amazed that I have never ventured the 4 hour road trip up to Lutsen before. It’s about as close as you can get to the Rockies around here, and you can make it as short as a weekend trip from the Twin Cities. YES.

We stayed at Caribou Highlands lodge, which is right on Lutsen Mountain – Ski-in, Ski-out – no need for a shuttle to get to the runs. We definitely paid a premium to visit over the holiday, but after staying right on the hill, I don’t think I’d do it any other way.

 

I was incredibly impressed at the size of this place. In Minnesota, it’s tough to find a hill that takes more than 60 seconds to ride down. These were solid 3-4 minute runs, with multiple options (especially on Moose Mountain) that can get you somewhat lost (or maybe that’s just me?).

 

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It was Mike’s 2nd time EVER on a snowboard, and he completely rocked it. By day 2 he was a regular pro 😉  He says he’s now officially addicted and wants to go every weekend. Score one for me! I’ve only been trying to get him on a snowboard for the past 7 years. We somehow even ended up on a black diamond on day two – Mike took it in stride and didn’t even bite it.

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It was COLD (-25 windchill) but we made the best out of it. Boot warmers and lots of layers were key. Poor Jessi was sick and decided to relax on day 2, but Mike, Joe and I braved the elements and had some fun riding fun boxes in the snowboard park. Wheeeee!

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Brrrrr....

Brrrrr….

 

NYE Dinner at Mogul’s Grille & Tap Room at Caribou Highlands was fab. I had the blackened mahi mahi, with LOTS of fresh shrimp and crab claws from the buffet. MMmmmmmm. And ironically, my friend Mikel from college happened to be our server!  What a small world it is.

We had a ton of fun hanging out with Jess and Joe; something we don’t get to do nearly often enough. Lots of Rumchata and blueberry moonshine, a little hot tubbin’. and table tennis; and finally, watching the Vikings make the playoffs definitely capped off the weekend! I’d absolutely do a weekend up in Lutsen again. I think next time, I’d pick a weekend in late Feb/early March when it’s not so frigid and you don’t have to pay holiday premiums at the resort and on the lift tickets.

 

What did you do for New Year’s? What are your favorite semi-local weekend getaways?

 

Categories: Miscellaneous Musings, Travel | Leave a comment

Keeping your New Year’s Resolution

new years resolutions

Welcome to 2013! If you’re like most Americans, you probably made a New Year’s resolution to eat healthier, get fit, quit a bad habit, volunteer, or advance your career.  Did you know that 80% of people who make New Year’s resolutions fall off the wagon by the end of February? …. 80%!

You don’t have to be one of these people.  If you’re set on making 2013 the year where you stick to your guns, make sure your goals are realistic and SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound). This little mnemonic tool can apply to both your personal and professional objectives…and will help you stop riding the merry-go-round of misplaced goals that most people jump on year after year.

S.M.A.R.T GOALS

Specific

Simply saying, “I want to get in shape this year”, or “I want to eat less fast food” leaves far too much open for your brain’s interpretation. The less ambiguous, the more difficult it will be to talk yourself out of it. A goal that is specific will answer the following questions:

Who is involved?
What do I want to accomplish?
Where will I accomplish it?
WHY do I want to do this?

Measurable

“I want to volunteer more time to the causes I care about”.  Great!  But when 2013 is over, will you look back and be satisfied with your achievements? How MUCH more time do you want to spend?  How MUCH weight do you want to lose? I personally think that this criteria is the most crucial when it comes to making resolutions. If your goal isn’t measurable, you have no way of evaluating how successful you’ve been. It’s also critical if you want to experience the thrill of achievement.

So…if you want to eat healthier, make it more concrete. Say something like, “I plan to make meals at home using clean, whole foods 5 days each week”. If you want to lose weight, make it “My goal is to lose 20 lbs by this time next year”. Want to volunteer? Say, “I want to volunteer at XXX organization at least one day per week”.

You’ll be much more likely to stick to it, and feel far more accomplished when you do.

Attainable

Don’t even bother with unattainable resolutions, or you’ll be off the train long before the snow melts.  Make your goal achievable but difficult. If it is too easy, you won’t get as much satisfaction when you accomplish it.


Relevant

This criteria is key.  Create a goal that you actually CARE about – one that aligns with other, smaller goals in your life.  Saying, “I want to eat 30 carrots a day for the next two weeks” may be specific, measurable, attainable, and time-bound…but does it really have any relevance? How much is it going to help you in the end?  A goal that is relevant is one that will drive you forward. Make sure it aligns with other primary efforts in your life and that the end result is worthwhile.

Time-Bound

Give your resolution a target date to help you stay on track.Without a deadline, your goal will inevitably end up overtaken by other life commitments and procrastination will ensue. Before you know, it will be New Year ’s Eve in 2013 and you’ll still be “planning” to accomplish what you set out to do a year ago. Ask yourself what you can do today, tomorrow, and next week to help achieve that specific goal by XXX date.

By keeping these criteria in mind, you’ll be far more likely to ring in 2014 as an even better version of your already rockin’ awesome self!


What about me?

I’ve been struggling to come up with a personal goal for the upcoming year…primarily because I’m afraid I won’t be able to accomplish it. But that’s the whole point, right?  Continue to challenge yourself to achieve what you didn’t think possible. So, I’ve decided that my goal (more a goal than a resolution, really) is to complete an Olympic distance triathlon in 2013. As anyone who knows me is certainly aware, I’m a bad swimmer. A mile-long lake swim absolutely terrifies the bejeezus out of me. So I’ve already taken the first step to achieving my goal –I have enrolled in a 6-week swim conditioning course through the YWCA, starting next week!

I think I can I think I can….

 

new years eve 2012

What is your New Year’s resolution? Is it SMART?

Categories: Miscellaneous Musings, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

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