It’s Long Overdue ~ Mango Avocado Quinoa Salad

There’s part of me that wants to pretend that there’s nothing unusual about falling off the face of the blogging world for over six months and then casually popping in for another post like I’m right on schedule. Not that I ever actually had a schedule going around here, but I was rather consistent about posting once a month…or so.

The other side of me wants to make a BIG deal out of this. Hey WORLD!!! I’m BACK!!! And look what I brought ya!!!!

That, I tell myself, sounds rather obnoxious though, so I won’t. You’re welcome.

It’s been six months of significant season change, from a lovely autumn, a fairly mild winter (that is, on the days when it wasn’t snowing or icing), a spring of rain, storms, and more rain, to another hot, hot summer. Tell me, how does the ground go from oozing water like a soaked sponge, to cracking from dry heat in less than a week???

My life has been considerably less drastic.

IMG_1093I bought a new cutting board!  Yeah, not much to say here…

Actually, you want to know what I haven’t talked about since this post in August of 2013?? My braces! Well, they are off now folks, as of September 2014. It wasn’t as thrilling as I was hoping since the adult canine died, but hey, it’s where it’s supposed to be now and seems sturdy enough. I don’t even have to wear that horrendous retainer! As far as I’m concerned, I can happily forget the whole thing happened. I’m sure you were dying to know the rest of the braces saga, so there you have it!

So, in spite of the fact that I haven’t posted since 2014, I do still cook…just as much as ever, as my Instagram can attest. (You can pretty much blame that app for the seemingly imminent demise of my blog.) What brings me back, you ask?

Well, it’s this…

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I made it for a party, innocently enough, and…well, people just got addicted. Every other person wanted the recipe and I scolded myself for not having blogged it already so I could just pass out my blog address rather than racking my brain trying to remember what I actually put in it. Yep, I’ve returned to the old habit of not making notes while I cook (and creating run on sentences that you can barely get through without stopping for breath!). Oops!

I made it again today because I think my original taste testers have pretty good taste when it comes to good food. I’m pretty sure, if they liked it, than you will too.

And let me tell ya’, this is a salad for summer! Sweet, spicy, refreshing, light and yet filling. Okay, I hear you, I’ll stop the wordage already and get with the recipe!

Mango Avocado Quinoa Salad

  • 1 c. quinoa
  • 2 mangos, peeled and cubed
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1/4 red onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, cored, diced
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1/2 t. minced garlic
  • 1 t. honey
  • 2 T. sesame oil, or other mild flavored oil (not toasted sesame)
  • 1/4 t. red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 avocados, peeled, seeded and cubed

IMG_1160Rinse quinoa. Drain, then add enough water to the pan to cover the quinoa by about an inch. I use the first joint on my index finger to measure from the top of the grain, because I dislike measuring liquid for grains. Weird, I know.

Bring to a boil, cover with a lid and lower heat to a simmer. Cook 15-20 minutes or until all the water is cooked out. Remove from heat. Let cool to room temp (or refrigerate for later use) and fluff with a fork.

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Peel mangos and cut into bite-sized pieces.

IMG_1110Dice the red pepper, purple onion (Can we just come to terms with the fact that this variety of onion is not red and should not be called red?), and the jalapeno. This is my favorite way to de-core a pepper…

IMG_1122Chop cilantro and add to prepared ingredients. Let’s just stop and relish the colors for a moment, shall we?

IMG_1134Purple, that onion is totally purple.

Mix the juice of the limes, honey, red pepper flakes, oil, and garlic in a jar or cup and pour over ingredients.

IMG_1130Add cooled quinoa to bowl and toss lightly. The avocados should go in at the last minute…or at least a couple hours before.

IMG_1139Salt and pepper to taste. Please don’t over stir! Once the avocado is added, you want to mix as little as possible so it doesn’t just mush together.

IMG_1151Enjoy as a side for grilled chicken, or eat it as a meal all on it’s own!

Before the next mouth watering photo, I would like to take this moment to thank each and every one of you. Thank you to my loyal readers who have stayed with me even though I ditch you for 6 months at a time. And thank you to my new visitors for getting this far in reading this post! Welcome and I hope you enjoy what you find here on Stir it Up!!

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Garden Bounty: Cucumber and Grape Gazpacho

So amidst all the garden produce, the cucumbers have been standing out the most – piles of them. I pride myself on getting down to the bottom of the pile only to find a new pile next time I come into the kitchen. I can’t even name all the cucumber recipes I’ve tried this last month.

How can you complain about too much garden produce? I can’t…at least I’m trying not to. However, I am about to enforce a household law that each person shall eat cucumber at every meal. Penalty of not eating cucumber is washing dishes for a week by hand because we’re out of dishwasher soap.

I’m thinking that won’t go over very well…

Plan B – throw a bunch of them into the blender and make this delicious gazpacho.

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Recipe is adapted from White Gazpacho over at Playin’ With My Food

Cucumber and Grape Gazpacho

Serves 6-8

  • 4 large cucumbers, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 4 c. green grapes, washed and stemmed
  • 3 T. fresh cilantro leaves
  • 3 T. red wine vinegar (I really wanted to use some white wine instead, but couldn’t  justify opening a bottle for a few tablespoons…just a hint though. :)
  • 2 T. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup almonds, blanched and sliced (I buy them that way)
  • sour cream or crème fraîche

Combine all ingredients in the blender except for the almonds and cream. Blend until smooth and creamy. Chill an hour or so to meld flavors.

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Toast almond slices in a hot skillet with a little olive oil and salt. Let cool and serve on the side with sour cream or crème fraîche.

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Did you know a cucumber’s internal temperature is 20 degrees cooler than it is outside the cucumber? Cucumbers are also high in Vitamin K, fiber, and magnesium which helps lower blood pressure. No wonder calm and unruffled people are referred to as being “cool as a cucumber”.

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Featuring Sage’s pottery today, folks. I love this bowl!

Ironically, it was one year and a month ago that I posted about another delicious chilled soup and the braces I had to get because of an impacted canine. Last week I finally got that chain I’ve been waiting for that will hopefully pull my tooth down into place. The chain however was making my life miserable rubbing the inside of my mouth raw and giving me a nice swollen lip. I was going through the wax they give you at the dentist like crazy and nothing was helping until…Guess what came to my aid? A cucumber slice! I’m serious! I peeled it, sliced it thin, and tucked it between the offending chain and the very offended lip and we’re just hangin’ out as cool as a cucumber gets!

Now I better get this chain off before our cucumber plants stop producing…

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What’s your best cucumber recipe? I’d love to try it. :)

Of Braces, Baby Booties, and Vanilla Beans

Well, yesterday was the big day. After 6 months of braces (I can’t believe it’s been that long!)  I got the baby tooth extracted and now have a bracket on that elusive adult tooth. The dentist said the tooth was in a good place to come down and so far it’s going quite well. I feel like I’m all wrapped up in a warm blanket of God’s Grace and Goodness – nice and cozy.

Tera brought me home some beautiful flowers which are sitting on the table in front of me…

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…Along with a bunch of cookbooks Grandma sent home for me to browse through and my latest knitting project.

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I knit my first “real” scarf in November and when I say knit, I mean knit, since I didn’t know how to purl or do any other stitch. A dear lady, who is also a cleaning client, graciously invited us girls over and taught me how to read a simple pattern, purl, and “yarn over” so my second project was a buttoned neck warmer. From there I challenged myself with this lace scarf from The Purl Bee, a lovely site with free patterns. I have finally re-knit the same amount that I had to take out from a bad mistake, so I’m pretty happy about that. Hopefully, I’ll make it to scarf length before another disaster like that!

I finished another project last week that I have to share with you all – Mary Jane Baby Booties! We’re expecting a little niece this month (extra special since it’s my birthday month too! :D) and I wanted to make her something warm and cozy for her first winter months.

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I had just finished trimming out a sheepskin parka I’ve had for years and had enough left over for a pair of booties and a hat.

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Aren’t they darling?

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I found the shoe pattern on Prudent Baby. They were so easy and only took a couple hours to hand sew. The hat I just made as I went since I couldn’t find a pattern. It’s hard to believe that these won’t be too small for a newborn. It was so much fun making tiny things! I have some sheepskin leftover – I think I’ll try something else. :D Addicted!

So, by now you’re probably wondering if this is still a cooking blog, right? It is, I assure you. In fact, guess what I’m making now…

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That’s right! My own homemade vanilla extract! I was inspired by Cenk over at Cafe Fernando and, while I don’t use near as many vanilla beans as he does, I had a few in the cabinet that were slowly drying out. What better way to use them up than to douse them with vodka?

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Here’s the beauty of making your own vanilla –

A 32 oz bottle of vodka costs 14 dollars.

10 Organic vanilla beans Grade 1 extraction (these beans are drier, therefore cheaper to get) for 8.99 from Amadeus Vanilla Beans (or a 1/4 lb for 17.99)

Total cost – 25 dollars. Compare that to buying Pure Vanilla from Penzeys (16oz for 40.99) or the store ( 4.95 for 4 oz.) and you save yourself approximately 56.98 for a 32 oz bottle of vanilla that will last most people a very long time. We go through about that much every year. My brother’s fabulous vanilla lattes are practically spiked with vanilla. :D

The other benefit to making your own vanilla is a bonus that comes with all things homemade – you know exactly what’s in it! Do you know how many “pure vanilla extracts” have corn syrup in them? Yeah, I don’t either, but I know McCormick’s does and a few other brands I picked up as I was looking in the grocery store. They sneak that heinous corn syrup into everything!

Well, that puts an end to my rambling post. Hope you all are having a phenomenal January!