It dawned on me the other day I had never written about a beverage.  I’m certainly not whipping up cocktails in my kitchen every night, but alcohol or not, I do enjoy toying with ingredients in my drinks- whether it be adding apple pie spice to hot cocoa, or putting grapefruit juice in my gin and tonic (though there must be a name for that).  With an abundance of limes on hand, I decided to make homemade limeade.  If you’ve only had lemonade and not limeade, then you’re missing a crucial part of the citrus drink spectrum.  Even more tart in flavor, limeade is incredibly refreshing.  To enhance the drink’s natural green hue and mellow out the tartness, I added mint.  This drink is wonderful on its own, but it without a doubt begs for a splash of gin or vodka.  Cheers to finding my go to summertime drink.

Homemade Mint Limeade

Make 2 glasses

juice of 6 limes

2 tsp finely chopped fresh mint

3 T agave nectar (or simple syrup)

2 1/2 c water (sparkling if you have it)

Whisk together the lime juice, mint, and agave nectar.  Divide lime mixture between two medium size glasses.  Fill the glasses slightly more than half way with ice cubes.  Stir well to chill lime mixture.  Pour 1 1/4 cups of flat or sparkling water into each glass and stir well.  Enjoy immediately!

I like quinoa. I do.  I just like it in smallish quantities. I feel like I’m supposed to really like it.  It’s that hot new grain that’s super healthy, has every nutrient you need, absorbs all flavors, can be made sweet or savory, yada yada.  I’m sorry, but I’m just not that into it.

Every once and a while though, I feel like we should be eating it (because it’s so healthy!) and I end up buying it.  We had some in our cupboard, and when deciding how to prepare it, Brandon came across this recipe.  I’m not the biggest fan of allrecipes.  I sometimes feel like their site is just a dumping ground for all the recipes posted on the boxes of ingredients from the grocery store.  But not all those recipes are bad, so I shouldn’t shun them immediately.  What really caught my eye on this particular recipe though was that almost 62,000 people had saved it to their recipe box. 62,000 people are planning on making quinoa, and they’re preparing it this way? Well then, I guess it can’t be half bad.

So with just a few small ingredient additions (paprika, jalapeno, lime), I prepared this quinoa recipe for dinner the other night.  And it was…. beautiful to look at but just so so.  Maybe I just need to add bacon and call it a day, but then it would feel a bit like cheating.  Am I alone here, or does someone have some super fabulous quinoa recipe I’m missing?  If not, I recommend the one below- just add pork fat.

Southwestern Quinoa Salad adapted from
Serves 4
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • juice of 1 lime

Heal oil in medium size pot over medium heat.  Add in onion, garlic, and jalapeno, stirring occasionally and cooking until lightly browned (8-10 minutes).Stir in quinoa, cover with vegetable broth, and stir in spices.  Bring to a boil, and then lower to a simmer.  Simmer partially covered over medium low heat for 20-25 minutes, until all liquid is absorbed.

Stir in corn and beans, cooking for a few minutes until corn is cooked through.  Stir in cilantro and lime. Dish may served warm, at room temp, or chilled and served cold.

A few weeks back, I had dinner at Rosa Mexicano for the first time.  I ate everything from the crab empanadas to the pork belly tacos, but what stood out the most was their guacamole.  Big buttery pieces of avocado tossed in onion, jalapeno and cilantro. As I downed the dip, I began to question why, when making guacamole at home, had I always smashed my avocados into oblivion? From that moment forward I swore I’d never made guacamole that way again. This Sunday, midst a Mexican food themed weekend, I finally had the opportunity to amend my guacamole making tendencies.  I followed Rosa Mexicano’s signature recipe and added in lime and extra jalapeno for freshness and spice. The outcome was delicious, most certainly a vast improvement from my previous version of guacamole.  Not to mention, this guacamole method makes a remarkably pretty dip, don’t you think?

Guacamole adapted from Rosa Mexicano Restaurants

Serves 4

3 ripe hass avocados

handful chopped cilantro

2 1/2 T very finely minced white onion

1 japaleno finely minced

juice of 1 lime

1/2 tsp salt

tortilla chips

Cut avocados in half, remove pit, and scoop out whole halves (gently run a spoon around the rind).  Chop avocados into medium size chunks.  Toss gently with remaining ingredients.  Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly against the avocado so it’s not exposed to the air.  Chill in fridge for 30 minutes before serving with tortilla chips.

I am by no means experienced in Asian cooking.  It’s the one area in the kitchen I don’t feel too inclined to explore.  I’d much rather eat out for Japanese, Chinese, or Thai food (etc) and call it a day.  However, there is one dish I’ve taken to making at home- Sesame Noodles.  Granted it’s probably one of the most Americanized dishes at a Chinese restaurant, but I love it anyway (largely due to the presence of peanut butter in the sauce).  Plus, any sauce that just requires throwing items in a blender and hitting on is an ideal weeknight recipe in my book.  We paired these noodles with baked tofu (Gasp! How un-Contessa like of me) as we’re trying to eat less meat, but sauteed shrimp or chicken would also work well. Toss the raw shrimp or chicken in a few tablespoons of the sauce, allow seafood/meat to marinate for at least 30 minutes, and then cook in a lightly oiled frying pan.  Serve over tossed noodles.

Spicy Sesame Noodles adapted from Dana Treat

1 pound rice noodles

¾ cup smooth peanut butter

½ cup rice vinegar

1 1/2 tsp agave nectar (or sugar)

4 T soy sauce

½ cup water

1 T sesame oil

2 tsp crushed red pepper flake

1/4 tsp dried ginger

1 large garlic clove

scallions and sesame seeds for topping

Set a large pot of water to boil.  Cook rice noodles for five minutes (do not overcook or they will stick together!), drain, and rinse under cold water to stop cooking process. Place in large bowl and toss with 2 T vegetable oil so noodles don’t stick together.

In a blender or Cuisinart, puree the remaining ingredients except for the sesame seeds and scallions to make the dressing.

Pour 3/4 of the dressing over the noodles, and toss gently to coat.  Add more dressing if noodles seem dry.  Top individual bowls with sesame seeds and scallions if desired.

I am half Irish, thanks to my mother’s side of the family.  Her last name begins with “O’, ” just to give you a sense of how Irish she is.  Every year, growing up, we’d have Corned Beef and Cabbage around Saint Patrick’s Day. But since moving away from home, it’s become harder to keep up the tradition (Saint Patrick’s Day isn’t exactly a holiday you go home for).

When I made my travel plans to go home a few weeks back, my mom told me (enthusiastically) that she’d be making Corned Beef and Cabbage for our visit.  I didn’t think much of it at the time, I was just looking forward to any form of my mother’s cooking.  But this past Saturday, as we sat down to enjoy this timeless Irish meal, I was quickly reminded of how much I love this dish.  Corned beef and cabbage is a prime reminder that in cooking, simplicity is often best. And when paired with nostalgic memories of your childhood, well, that’s even better.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!