Tina Made Blackberry Vinaigrette

I f-ing love salad. Not because it’s healthy or good for me or because I’m supposed to, but I genuinely think it’s delicious. EXCEPT when the dressing sucks. So maybe I don’t really love salad, I love salad dressing. Shrug.

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I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time getting proportions right when I’m making dressing. It’s always too oily or too tangy or too something. I keep adding the “missing” ingredient until I end up with 2 cups of mediocrity. -_- So. Here’s a foolproof vinaigrette dressing recipe (that I should follow more often). I used blackberry balsamic from Beyond the Olive, which pretty much guaranteed it would be delicious.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup blackberry balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 clove chopped garlic

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Enjoy, herbivores.

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Tina Made Avocado Toast

THIS. This is my absolute favorite snack in the entire world. Like ever, in life. Probably because like this recipe, it has perfect trifecta of ingredients (avocado, cilantro, lime).

Please try it. Unless you’re one of those unfortunate people who don’t like cilantro… then… I’ve got nothing.

Ingredients:

  • one slice of toasted sourdough bread
  • a few sprigs of cilantro
  • half a lime
  • half an avocado
  • salt & pepper

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Toast bread. Smash half an avocado onto your bread. Sprinkle salt and pepper on avocado. Sprinkle cilantro leaves on top.  Squeeze lime juice (maybe half a lime, maybe more/less). DEVOUR.

Tina Made Cilantro-Lime Bean Salad

I’m not even kidding right now, I’ve made this salad 4x in the last 2 weeks (just barely adapted below). It contains the best ingredient duo ever… lime + cilantro (pho, anyone?). Actually, it’s a trifecta of goodness, because it also contains avocados (tacos, anyone?). What is it about the combination of these three green ingredients that is so delicious? That was a rhetorical question. Make it now.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 T fresh lime juice
  • 1 T extra virgin olive
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1- 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1- 15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 medium avocado, diced

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Cut your grape tomatoes in half, dice your avocado and red onion, and chop your cilantro.

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Rinse and drain your chick peas and black beans. Mix the minced garlic, lime juice, oil, cumin, crushed red pepper, and salt in a bowl.

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Mix beans with tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and avocado. When you’re ready to eat, dress with the vinaigrette. Serves 4-5.

Tina Made Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Why are mashed potatoes considered a holiday dish? They are delicious year round. Just like cranberry jelly in a can, which I really should eat more than once a year. But anyway. Yes, I did make garlic mashed potatoes over the holidays, and have been craving them since. I used this recipe, relying mostly on the accompanying video of Alton Brown himself. I compiled the written instructions with the video instructions, which were a bit different (or maybe just more specific).

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(Sorry for the crappy picture– sometimes, eating is a much bigger priority than stopping to take nice pictures)

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 16 fluid oz. (2 cups) half-and-half
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4-6 oz. Parmesan, freshly grated

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Crush garlic cloves. Put in a small pot, and poach them in 16 oz. of half and half. Let it simmer for 10 minutes, turn off the heat, and put a lid on it. Wash, peel, and dice your potatoes.

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Soak your potatoes in water for 30 minutes. Then drain the water, put the potatoes in a pot submerged in water (with about 1.5 inches to spare). Add the 2 T of kosher salt, and put them at high heat. As soon as they come to a boil, turn the heat down to low, and simmer for 30 minutes. While your potatoes are cooking, grate the parmesan cheese.

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The potatoes are cooked when they are crushable with a fork. Drain your potatoes. Mash them with a potato ricer (or use whatever tools you have). Pour in the garlic-cream. Add grated cheese (I ended up using about 4 of the 6 oz., but that’s just personal preference). Mix, and give it 5 min before you eat.

Urgh. So hungry now. Serves 10-ish, no gravy needed!

Tina Made Bacon-Wrapped Dates

Another dish I made for Thanksgiving! And then again the next day for a holiday potluck. Kinda sick of these little suckers now but I’m sure I’ll get over it soon enough. I made 50 dates for the potluck (for ~10 people), so the recipe below will be for that many– but obviously, cut down (or increase) if you need to. It’s super easy (only 4 ingredients!) but is a bit tedious to assemble. Promise it will be worth it though. 😉 Original recipe and directions here; directions modified below.

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Ingredients:
  • 50 pitted dates (I used Deglet Noor because they were smallest– original recipe recommends Medjool)
  • 50 almonds, unsalted
  • 1 lb. bacon
  • half block of cream cheese
  • 50 toothpicks, soaked in water for 10 minutes

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Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Throw a bunch of toothpicks in a bowl of water and let them soak (take them out after 10 minutes and pat dry). Meanwhile, cut a slit into each of the dates. Cut small rectangular pieces of cream cheese (~3/4″ long, 1/2″ wide, 1/4″ thick) and use a knife to place them into each date. Pop an almond into each one. The cream cheese should “seal” the date back together so it doesn’t fall apart!   

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Cut pieces of bacon large enough to wrap around the dates, and secure with a toothpick. Soaking the toothpicks is not an absolutely necessary step, but prevents it from burning before going into the oven.

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Arrange dates in a shallow baking pan lined with foil. Bake for 8 minutes, then flip each date over, and bake for another 8 minutes. Flip dates again, and broil for 2 minutes. Flip dates for the last time, and broil for another 2 minutes. The bacon should be cooked after 16 minutes (or even less) but the broiling will crisp it up!

Bon appetit!

Snow-Line Orchard

A couple weeks ago, I went to a conference center called Oak Glen for my church’s annual retreat. It’s located in Yucaipa, land of plentiful apple orchards. My friends and I had a chance to check out Snow-Line Orchards, which was just down the street.

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We heard about Snow-Line’s infamous apple cider donuts + fresh pressed apple cider and had to check them out, i.e. eat them.

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I love me a legit autumn with pretty trees and colorful leaves. I believe if you visit in the earlier months, you can pick your own apples, but ’twas too late for us.

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Eunice, Michelle, Sunghee, and me. 🙂 The rafters of the building had the names of various apple varieties painted on them.

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Inside the store, there were… apples. A lot. And food products made from… apples. (-_-)

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We taste-tested a ton of ’em. Uhm, perhaps my apple palette isn’t refined, because they were all good.

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OH the donuts. Freshly made in front of us, they were miniature and warm and covered with cinnamon sugar.

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They came in bags of 1/2 or 1 dozen. Also, mini apple/pumpkin pies, which supposedly were good but cold. Why wouldn’t they warm before serving? Why? (My friends asked. They said no.)

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The apple cider came hot or cold; I tasted both and stood in the store for 5 minutes trying to decide which one I wanted because they were equally delicious. I went with the hot and was not disappointed.

Snow Line (and the rest of the apple orchards) is only about 1.5 hours away from LA, so it’s not too far of a trek if you want some fresh apples (and donuts and cider). There are tons of benches for picnicking, too. Catch is, I believe it’s only open during apple season (9/1 – 11/30) so you JUST missed it. D: Check out the website to plan a trip for next year? 😉

Snow Line Orchards
39400 Oak Glen Road
Yucaipa, CA 92399

Cranberry Couscous

My friend passed on a delicious cranberry couscous recipe to me a few years back (via allrecipes.com), and I’ve made it here and there, usually for potlucks (with a few modifications). However, when I clicked back on the recipe link recently, the original recipe had completely changed! Not sure when that happened, but I really like the first version, so here it is with the modifications (you can compare it to the recipe that’s currently up, linked above– there are pretty significant differences). I made it for Thanksgiving last week but I feel like the cranberries make it also appropriate for a Christmas meal, don’t you? 🙂 Recipe below is technically for 6, but I’d say that as a side, it can serve 8-10.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup uncooked couscous
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped seeded cucumber
  • 1/4 cup chopped sliced red onion
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • juice from 1/4 orange

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All the ingredients– note that I only used 1/4 the orange, 1/4 of the onion, and 1 large persian cucumber and carrot each.

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In a saucepan, bring water to a boil. Stir in couscous. Remove from the heat; cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Cool for 10 minutes. Seed and chop cucumbers, carrots,  and onions.

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In a bowl, combine the couscous, cranberries, carrots, cucumber and red onion. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, oil, mustard, salt, pepper, and juice of orange.

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Pour dressing over couscous mixture; mix well. Cover and refrigerate. Toast sliced almonds by stirring on pan at medium-high heat. Turn heat to low as soon as almonds begin to brown. Tip: It will take awhile for the almonds to start browning, but once they do, they will burn fast, so watch carefully!

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Just before serving, mix in almonds. This dish explodes with so many different flavors/textures… sweet, salty, soft, crunchy, chewy, etc. Party in your mouth!

I’d recommend you make this dish at least half a day before serving, to allow the couscous to soak in the flavors of the dressing. If you’re in a time crunch, let it sit for at least a couple hours in the fridge.

Enjoy!