These hot summer days are starting to get to me.  It might have something to do with the fact that I’m now 4 days overdue to have a baby.  Baby pending or no, it seems that we can all use something refreshing to drink these days.  In the name of good hydration, this tea is caffeine free, crisp, and has wonderful flavor and is perfect for a night sitting out on the porch.

4 Chamomile tea bags
2 Cinnamon sticks
4 Whole star anise
2 Tablespoons honey
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 1 lemon
5 Sprigs fresh mint

Bring 4 cups of cold water to a boil and pour into a 32 oz heatproof container.  Add the tea bags, cinnamon sticks, star anise, and honey.  Let the ingredients steep for 3 minutes.  Add the orange and lemon juices and stir to blend.  The tea can be served immediately or chilled.

(recipe from Isabel’s Cantina)

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The Red Pepper Sofrito turned out to be an amazing salad dressing.  With the roasted vegetables, I added sauteed shrimp to the mix to make this a more hearty meal.

6 plum tomatoes, cut into quarters
1 large zucchini, halved and sliced
1 large red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
kosher salt
ground black pepper
5 T. olive oil
4 portobello mushrooms, cut into 6 pieces each
1 T. balsamic vinegar
6 C. mixed lettuces
Sofrito vinaigrette

Heat the oven to 350F.  Place the tomatoes, zucchini, and bell pepper on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with 2 T. of the olive oil.  Roast for about 35 min.  Add the mushrooms, the additional olive oil, and the balsamic to the rest of the veggies in the oven and bake for another 10 min.  Allow to cool slightly.

To serve, divide the lettuces among 6 plates.  Arrange the grilled vegetables over the top and drizzle with the vinaigrette.  Serve immediately.

Vinaigrette:

1/2 cup of the original Sofrito recipe
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
salt and pepper to taste

If you haven’t already figured it out, I like things simple—-flavorful, but simple.  This recipe of only 4 ingredients is for a sauce that can be used for various applications.  It has a lovely zing and is completely savory.  I decided to try it a couple of ways: the first as a salad dressing.  Here is the master recipe to get you started:

1/2 C. olive oil
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled

Heat all ingredients over medium high heat in a saute pan until the onions are translucent (about 10-15 min).  Transfer the contents into a food processor or blender (or use your emulsion blender) and puree until smooth.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.  Yields: about 1 1/2 cups.

(recipe from Isabel’s Cantina)

(To check out a picture, see the previous post, or click on Diablo Chicken)

Beans, beans, the magical….

Well I’m sure I don’t need to go on.  While packed with fiber and good carbs, these are absolutely delicious.  I like beans, but only when they have a lot of flavor and are slowly cooked.  With my new Isabel’s Cantina cookbook in hand from my birthday (thanks again, Judy), I have been enjoying flavorful and fresh mexican-style cuisine.  It was the perfect gift right before the warm weather finally kicked in.

2- 14oz cans of black beans, rinsed and drained
2 C. cold water
2 T. olive oil
1 medium spanish onion, diced
5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 T. ground cumin
1 T. dried oregano
1 T. chile powder
2 bay leaves
1 T. dried sweet basil
kosher salt to taste

Add all ingredients to a pot and place over medium heat on the stove for about 10 minutes.  Turn the heat down to a simmer and continue cooking for another 15 minutes.  Remove all bay leaves before serving.

Grilling in the back yard on a warm day in late spring seems like the perfect end to a long day at work. You sit out on the patio, open up a cold beer (or cold water for pregnant me), and enjoy watching the sun go down.  Now all you need is a chicken marinade recipe that will produce tangy, spicy, moist chicken.  Typically I don’t care much for chicken skin (the slimy fat layer grosses my out), but when it’s lathered in this sauce and charred to perfection, I can’t help but be won over.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

1/3 C. Dijon or Spicy Brown Mustard
1/3 C. fresh Lemon Juice (about 3 lemons)
1/3 C. Olive Oil
1 1/2 T. Red Pepper Flakes
3 1/2 lb. Chicken Pieces (e.g. legs, wings, bone-in breast)

Whisk together all ingredients except the chicken.  Put the chicken in a glass baking dish and pour the marinade on top, turning the pieces to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or at least 2 hrs.

Preheat your grill to high, make sure you have an area of indirect grilling (i.e. only heat one side of the grill or stack your charcoal more to one side).  Arrange the chicken over the indirect heat and cook about 10-15 min per side, or until the chicken juices run clear when pierced.  Let rest on a plater for 5 minutes before serving.