Thursday, May 30, 2013

Watermelon Slushie

Last summer Jack and I were at a play date and one of my friends made us watermelon slushies. They were so refreshing and delicious, I decided it would have to become a regular summer treat at our house. So now that watermelons are back in season, I have been making this for Jack and me all the time.

Here is what you will need to do:
  • Freeze cubed watermelon in zip top freezer bags. I usually freeze half of each watermelon I buy and use the other half to eat on it's own. This way you are not stuck with way too much watermelon!  
  • Place about 2-4 cups of frozen watermelon in a blender. You may have to use a knife to break the pieces apart.
  • Add 1-2 cups of water or coconut water and about 1-2 tablespoons of sugar. 
  • Blend together until smooth. You may need to add more water as you go. 
This makes plenty for Jack and me. You can also add lime or lemon juice. And if you have simple syrup, you can use it instead of sugar. Or you could add tequila and triple sec for a margarita! 

This is a wonderful, healthy treat, perfect for a warm summer day!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Best Burgers!

Last night we enjoyed a beautiful Memorial Day by grilling burgers and corn for dinner. I looked around online for burger grilling tips and recipes to see if I wanted to try something different. I decided to try this hamburger recipe from Bobby Flay. It is the easiest, yet most delicious burger you'll ever cook! I plan on using this recipe every time we grill burgers from now on. 

Now that corn is in season, it is super cheap. I found ours for $.20 each at Albertson's. I love grilling corn, and when you are already grilling your meat, it's a much easier and less messy way to cook it. Just brush the corn with canola oil then grill it over medium-high heat for about 8-10 minutes, moving often to cook evenly. Just watch it, you want a little char, but not too much. After cooking mine, I spread a little butter on it and sprinkle it with Tony Chachere's Creole seasoning. It gives the corn a great flavor and a little kick!

My only regret with this meal was buying the cheap hamburger buns, which as you can see, were a little small for our burgers!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Fajita Night

A few weeks ago, we had some friends over for dinner. We were going to be busy most of the day leading up to dinner, so I wanted to make something I could easily prepare ahead of time and not have to spend much time cooking once they arrived. One of my go-to meals in situations like this is chicken fajitas. You can marinate the meat ahead of time, so all you have to do is throw it on the grill when your guests arrive. And who doesn't like fajitas?

I have come up with my own fajita marinade that I adapted from one my mom often made when I was growing up. It's so simple, and you can add or subtract different ingredients to suit your tastes.

In a bowl, combine:
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • Generous dash of pepper
Place 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a baking dish, zip top bag or other container. Pour marinade over chicken. Flip chicken over and move around to ensure marinade covers all of the meat. Cover dish. Leave chicken in marinade for at least 2 hours or longer, up to overnight.

Grill chicken until cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from grill and slice diagonally. Serve in warm tortillas. We warmed our tortillas on the top rack of the grill. It's easy to warm them on the grill, just don't do it directly over the flame...charred tortillas aren't too tasty! Add the toppings of your choice. We had black beans, cheese, guacamole and some of my homemade salsa

I usually cook extra chicken when we make fajitas because the leftovers are great for quesadillas or nachos the following day.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Farina Alto

For Mother's Day, I requested that we go out to dinner at a new spot in our area of town called Farina Alto. This restaurant opened recently, and is the second location (the first is in EDo). I love the original Farina, and when I saw that they were opening the new location closer to our house, I was really excited. I have visited the original Farina a few times and always thought it had the best pizza in town, but because it's a little more out of the way for us, I did not get to go there as much as I would like.

Farina Alto has the same great menu as the original Farina, but with a larger wine menu. The restaurant itself is much larger than the original. The inside has plenty of seating as well as a nice bar. There is also a great patio with beautiful mountain views. It was a little rainy when we went, so we ate inside, but next time we hope to be able to enjoy the patio. The interior is very nice, it would be great for a date night but was also good for a family dinner.

We ordered the antipasto platter for an appetizer which had a delicious assortment of cured meats, imported cheeses, roasted artichokes, peppers and olives. It was served with wonderful grilled bread. This was a great appetizer and I look forward to ordering it again. 

We split the Salsiccia pizza, which had tomato sauce, local fennel sausage, oven roasted onion, mozzarella and provolone cheese. It was amazing. Once again, Farina impressed me with their wonderful pizza. The tomato sauce tastes so fresh, the sausage was full of flavor, and of course, the crust was delicious and crisp. 

If you are looking for the best pizza in Albuquerque, give Farina Alto a try. You will not be disappointed.

Farina Alto Pizzeria & WIne Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 13, 2013

Travel Tips Guest Post from Charissa

Today my friend Charissa from Mudpie Magnolia has written a guest post with some great travel tips just in time for summer! 

Charissa and I met eight years ago when we were both working for Reformed University Fellowship just out of college. We became good friends very quickly, and although we have never lived in the same city, we still stay in touch.

Charissa now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband Robert and their dog Rufus. 

I hope you find her tips as helpful as I have! 

I travelled a LOT over the past three years. Most of my travel was work-related, and for a while, it seemed I was in a hotel bed more than my own.

My first trips in this stretch were a little stressful. I’m a planner, and there’s any number of things that can go not-as-planned on a trip. Once I learned some key things, I felt almost as comfortable in a TSA line as lounging in my hammock. (Okay, not exactly...but  I made some definite improvements).

Here’s a list of things I found helpful while traveling...and hopefully you will too, whether it’s a family trip or girls’ weekend.

 1.  Sign up for loyalty programs
It can feel a little overwhelming to try to pick a hotel or a flight out of the millions of possibilities. I found that narrowing down my favorite brands made those choices much easier. Almost every loyalty program for airlines, hotels, or rental cars is free, so you have nothing to lose...and upgrades to gain. I decided that I would focus on two hotel groups: Kimpton and Starwood, two airlines: Southwest and Delta, and two car services: Hertz and Alamo.

Thanks to simply creating an account, I’ve gotten car upgrades, room upgrades, and way more free drink coupons than I can use on flights.

2.  Let your phone know your itinerary
I do have preferred airlines (Southwest & Delta). I use the apps that they provide. Most every airline has an app that, at the very least, will let you view your itineraries. It only takes a few minutes to download the app and enter your account information for your preferred airline.
The advantage is that these apps will give almost-immediate updates for gate changes or delays, as well as showing your boarding pass. Most of them let you check your loyalty rewards as well so you can think “I will be earning 2 million points for this mess” while you’re spending the night in LaGuardia airport because Delta made a big mistake...not that I speak from personal experience or anything.

3.  Compartments
I keep all my stuff in little modules so that it’s easy to switch them in between suitcases or bags. I have all my tech equipment in one bag, my toiletries in a clear zippered plastic bag from the Container Store (ideal for when you take a carry-on and the TSA smells your lotions), and a small “quick needs” that holds some medicine, lotion, a Tide stick and mints. Whenever I switch between backpacks, purses, or suitcases, I can just grab these modules instead of trying to re-find and then re-pack each item.

4.  Pack snacks
I’m always a happier camper when I’ve got a little something to snack on and drink on the plane/car/train (especially if it’s a long haul). Since I usually travel by plane, I’ll grab a few healthy snacks (and some chocolate) and some coconut water once I pass through security. My new favorites are the Go Picnic meals ( which you can buy before you get to the airport or sometimes once you’re there if you fly out of a bigger airport. I love them because they’re shelf-stable, cheaper than buying food on a plane, and they cater to dietary needs like gluten-free, vegetarian and kosher.

 5.  App it up!
My favorite (free) apps for travel (besides the ones for the airlines and hotels) are:

Hotel Tonight: Does just what it sounds like...helps you find a last minute hotel at steep discounts.
TripIt: Combine all your travel plans into one platform. I keep track of my cars, hotels, and flights simply by forwarding your email confirmations to TripIt.
GateGuru: Tells you where shops and food are located in your airport of choice. This has been a lifesaver in helping me to find snacks on long layovers.
Embark: If you’re in a large city with public transit, Embark is my favorite way to master the transit system with minimal worried. I use it in New York and my current home, San Francisco.
Kindle: Reading material! I use an iPad with the Kindle app, and will download either the Kindle free features (sometimes they’re truly awful), pick a book I’ve been wanting to read, or e-borrow something from my library.
Zinio: I subscribe to magazines through this app (Yay, Texas Monthly!) Between Kindle and Zinio, I’m not carrying a bunch of extra weight in reading material.

6.  Enjoy.
The best thing I’ve learned is that I’ll eventually get where I need to go. Being friendly to the travel industry always makes them more understanding and more willing to help you if something doesn’t go as planned.
Travel is as fun as you make it. Say hello to your seatmate, try taking the train, keep a journal...and enjoy your trip!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Hiking and Hamburgers


On Saturday we went to one of our favorite spots here in Albuquerque, the Elena Gallegos Open Space for a family hike. This park is a short drive from our house, but once we are there, we feel as though we have escaped the city. It's a beautiful park full of trails for hiking and mountain biking. There are also great picnic spots. It's a great place for a quick and easy hike, a family picnic, or a full day hike. 

Last year we went on many hikes with Jack, but at just over a year old, he was content to ride in our hiking child carrier pack, the Little Life Freedom Carrier. We loved this pack if you are looking for one for your little one. Josh and I both used it to carry him and found it very comfortable. Jack seemed to enjoy it too! He would smile and look around at the scenery as we hiked, and often fell asleep in the pack. It was easy to go on longish, somewhat strenuous hikes and carry him. I use to backpack often in college, so carrying him wasn't too different. 

This year, it's a different story. Not only is he much heavier (about 35 pounds), he is also much more active! So we have decided that this summer our hikes will be to spots that are a little more geared toward him. Elena Gallegos is perfect for this stage. Many of the trails, especially those parts of them that are near the parking area have wide, somewhat flat trails. You can also stay pretty close to your car and the restrooms just in case you need to rush back in the event of a meltdown! 

So when we arrived, we let Jack loose, and he ran (literally), the entire trail. I'm convinced he will be an Olympic distance runner one of these days. His endurance amazes me! He absolutely loved it, and we had a great time as well enjoying watching him having fun doing something we love and soaking in the beautiful surroundings.  

During the hike, Josh asked what was for lunch. I informed him that I am failing in my duties as a housewife and had nothing at home. Being the wonderful husband that he is, it didn't phase him. He suggested we try out a new spot in our neck of the woods called Freddy's.

When Freddy's opened up here in Albuquerque, I didn't think much of it. I was in no hurry to give it a try. But when he mentioned it, I figured we might as well check it out. Josh dropped the marathon boy and me back at home so I could get him fed and down for a much-needed nap, then drove through Freddy's and brought our lunch back to the house.

As you may have noticed in the picture above, I had already taken a bite out of the burger when I took the photo. I was a little hungry after chasing Jack through the desert mountains. That's my excuse for that and for eating all this fatty food. 

I got a Single Steakburger California Style with fries. I noticed that most burgers on the menu were double or triple which seemed a little strange, but once I got mine, I saw that the patty is very thin. It was plenty of food for me, but those with bigger appetites would most likely prefer the double. It came with their "Freddy's Sauce," which is like the special sauce at In-N-Out, basically thousand island dressing, which I liked. The burger was better than the typical fast food burger, but nothing incredible. The fries, however, were delicious! They are shoestring-style fries, which are my favorite, so they easily won me over. I also ordered a vanilla concrete (custard) with Oreo for dessert. It was good and very similar to other custard I have tried other places I have lived like Caliches in Las Cruces and Sheridan's in Lubbock.

Overall, I thought Freddy's had great fries, a good burger, and good custard. Although it's not the best burger I've had in Albuquerque, it's still a good spot for a quick meal, and I am happy to have something new close by.

Freddy's Frozen Custard and Steakburgers on Urbanspoon

Pimiento Cheese & Bacon Paninis

Last night I decided to make an easy Sunday night dinner. I made my pimiento cheese and spread some of it on two slices of Trader Joe's sourdough wheat bread. Then I put two slices of cooked bacon between the slices of bread and cooked it in my panini press. This is a wonderful meal for a lazy Sunday night or a weekday lunch. My pimiento cheese recipe will make plenty so that you can make sandwiches for your whole family and/or have some leftover to use throughout the week. It's also great as a dip with crackers.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Cinco de Mayo Lunch

Today for lunch I decided to make something with the few things we had on hand. Black beans, cheese, and tortillas made quesadillas an easy choice. I also had some salsa I had made last week. So we had an impromptu Cinco de Mayo lunch party.

I changed up my salsa just a little this time, based on what I had on hand. I used:
  • one can Rotel diced tomatoes and green chiles (original), drained
  • one can diced tomatoes, drained
  •  1/2 bunch cilantro
  • 1/2-1 cup hot diced roasted green chiles
  • dash of salt
  • dash of cumin
  • one garlic clove, pressed
Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and pulse until you get the consistency you prefer. 

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend with your family and friends like we did!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Cinco de Mayo Guest Post

Check out my guest post over at my friend Charissa's blog, Mudpie Magnolia. Happy Cinco de Mayo, everyone!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Southwest Roast Chicken Breasts

The other night I was planning on making some Tandoori Chicken using this recipe I found in Cooking Light last year. However, as the afternoon began to turn to evening, I realized it was not going to happen. I had not marinated the chicken ahead of time and there was no way we were going to have the energy to grill. For some reason, grilling on a Wednesday night seems to take an extra amount of effort.

So I decided to try making roast chicken breasts with a southwest twist. Baking the chicken with the skin on gives you crispy skin and moist chicken. These were very easy to make and tasted delicious! I look forward to making them again.

To make my Southwest Roast Chicken Breasts, you will need:
  • 2 bone-in chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp. butter, softened
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. chile powder (or a little more if you want extra kick)
  • 1-2 tsp. chopped cilantro
  • salt & pepper
  • olive oil
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Combine butter, garlic, chile powder, cilantro, a generous dash of salt, and a dash of pepper in a small bowl. Carefully spread half of butter mixture underneath skin of each chicken breast. Sprinkle salt and pepper over each chicken breast and drizzle with olive oil.

Place a layer of aluminum foil on the bottom of a broiler pan then put the broiler rack on top of it (you could also use a wire rack on top of a baking sheet). Place chicken on top of pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Let chicken rest for about 5 minutes after baking.

When I made this, I only put salt and pepper on top, not in the butter mixture. I realized it needed more salt, so I think adding it to the butter mixture as I mentioned in the recipe above will help. Also, if you have limes around, squeeze some fresh lime juice on the chicken after baking.

I served ours with my favorite roasted asparagus. This time I minced some garlic and mixed it with olive oil and salt and pepper, then poured it over the asparagus. I also baked it at a higher temperature, 400 degrees, for about 10 minutes which made the asparagus and garlic nice and crisp.

This is a great meal for a busy weeknight or when you have guests. You can prepare the chicken ahead of time and stick it in the oven just before your guests arrive. This way you can visit and not have to worry about cooking when everyone arrives.

If you have any leftover chicken, it would be great for making my green chile chicken spaghetti