Flashback Friday: Roadtrip to Mexico

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Before I left Phoenix for the East Coast, I made a list of all the West Coast adventures I wanted to take. High on my list was a trip to Puerto Penasco (aka Rocky Point), Mexico. Just a quick 4-hour drive from the Phoenix area, I somehow convinced one of my co-workers and fellow adventurer that this would be a great way to spend a long weekend.

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We headed down on a Friday afternoon, stopping midway at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and the giant dinosaur sculptures for a leg stretch.

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The scenery on the drive down was gorgeous. We were practically the only ones on the road and it was cacti as far as the eye could see.

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We made it to the border without incident and promptly stopped at a package store to pick up very reasonably priced bottles of tequila for our weekend.

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After realizing our planned accommodations were not suitable for a weekend stay (long story that includes scorpions), we promptly packed up and found a resort with plenty of vacancy for us for the weekend. We ended up in a 1-bedroom condo with a full kitchen, living room, and balcony. Here’s our view of the pools from the balcony:

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We ventured into “town” to have dinner and see some of the sites, but because it was off-season, many of the shops and restaurants were closed. We did manage to find an oceanfront restaurant with beautiful views of the sunset.

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The next day, we spent some time enjoying the sun, and made it to the pool just in time for happy hour.

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On our way home we found a cute coffee shop to fuel us for the drive ahead and stopped at the Super Mercado to buy Mexican vanilla, cinnamon, and other fun food items.

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All in all, it was a (thankfully) uneventful weekend and to be honest, we probably would have enjoyed a 4-hour drive in a different direction, perhaps San Diego instead. #liveandlearn

Celery & Wild Rice Soup

celerysoup

Over the weekend I ran a fever and spent the day in bed trying to stay warm. It was a huge bummer because the spring weather has finally arrived and Sunday was set to be the better of the two weekend days – I had plans! Things to do! But I was sidelined.

I wanted soup for dinner and was craving one of my favorites – celery wild rice soup. It’s a variation of the chunky celery soup that Heidi Swanson at 101 Cookbooks makes. The celery makes it light and fresh but the rice makes it hearty and filling. Plus it’s so easy to make, especially if you have leftover wild rice. I didn’t, but it’s easy enough to cook while your veggies are sauteing and simmering.

I highly recommend making a pesto from the celery leaves and drizzling it atop your bowl of soup with it. It is magical!

1 large onion
1 large russet potato or 3 small yukon gold or red potatoes
3 carrots
8 – 10 stalks of celery
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
5 cups of broth (chicken or vegetable)
2 cups cooked wild rice (or any other rice you like)

Garnish:
Celery leaf pesto (In a blender or food processor, whiz up 1 cup of celery leaves, 2 cloves garlic, a pinch of salt, and about 3T olive oil)
Parmesan cheese for garnish

Chop the onion, potato, carrots, and celery into bite-sized chunks.

In a soup pot over medium high heat combine the olive oil, onion, potato, carrots, celery and a generous pinch of salt. Saute until the onions and celery soften Stir in the garlic and add the stock. Bring to a simmer and let cook for another 10 minutes or until the veggies are just cooked through – they should still hold their shape and not be overcooked.

Stir in the rice. Remove the soup from the heat and ladle into soup bowls. Top each with a generous drizzle of the celery leaf pesto and some Parmesan cheese.

 

 

March Finishes

February was filled with starts which meant that March was set up for tons of finishes… and finish I did!

Mar finishes

Top row: Baby quilt for a coworker, Floating Hearts quilt, charity baby quilt top made before the NJMQG March Madness event

Bottom Row: Wisteria Lane quilt for my sister, quilt I finished for Sooz, and I started and finished the book Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

I also finished three other baby quilt tops at March Madness, but didn’t get pictures of them – hopefully at the April meeting, I can grab a quick snap before they are finished and donated.

 

Italian Wedding Soup

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I posted this picture on Instagram last week after spending a day at a charity event for the NJMQG and the comments I got ranged from “OMG that looks amazing” to “Holy Crap, I can’t believe you came home and made meatballs for soup.” Weelllll, here’s a little secret, I didn’t actually make the meatballs. I used the ones in my grocery store’s deli department. They are pre-cooked and not filled with a million crazy chemicals. If you have a favorite frozen meatball, you can totally use those, too. Just thaw them before you start cooking.

(Cheater) Italian Wedding Soup
3T. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 (12 oz) package premade or frozen (thawed) meatballs
1 small onion, diced
3 carrots, sliced
3 celery stalks, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pinch crushed red pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup orzo
10 oz baby spinach
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat 1T oil in a small skillet and brown the meatballs on all sides, until heated through, 5 minutes total. Remove from heat.

In a large pot, heat the remaining 2T of oil over medium-high. Add the onions, garlic, carrots and celery. Add the crushed pepper along with a pinch of salt.
Saute until the veggies start to sweat & soften, about 6 minutes.
Add the wine and stock and bring to a light boil.
Add the pasta and cook another 6 minutes.
Add the meatballs and spinach and simmer for about 5 more minutes.

Optionally, you can use sausage in place of the meatballs. It gives the soup a completely different flavor.

 

Monkey Bread

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The first time I had Monkey Bread was at the restaurant Jones in Philadelphia. It was a revelation! It tasted like donut holes and the inside part of a cinnamon roll. And then I promptly forgot about it – until JenS and I were browsing through Home Goods a few months ago and I found a boxed mix of Monkey Bread. When we were making it, she told me that she used to make it for her kids all the time but she used canned biscuits instead of using a mix or making them from scratch. It’s probably no surprise that I had to try that out for myself. I made this Monkey Bread for a charity event that I worked last weekend. It was a huge hit!

If you’ve never made it before, I highly encourage you to try it out. You won’t be disappointed!

Monkey Bread!
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cans Grands biscuits
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, if desired
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 stick melted butter

Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease bundt pan with shortening or cooking spray. In shallow bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon.

Separate dough into 16 biscuits; cut each into quarters. Roll in cinnamon sugar to coat. Arrange in pan, adding walnuts among the biscuit pieces.

In small bowl, mix brown sugar and melted butter; pour over biscuit pieces.

Bake 28 to 32 minutes or until golden brown and no longer doughy in center. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Turn upside down onto serving plate. Try to share.

Optional Mix-ins: Chocolate chips, toffee bits, other nuts like almond slivers, or pecans, cranberries or raisins – use your imagination!

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