Friday, August 29, 2014

10 {SEC} Game Day Cocktails

I'm cheating a little bit here and recycling some old recipes for you newbies around these parts...

Those of you who have been around for a while might remember my Tailgate Thursday series from a few years ago. The lovely Carla of Haute Cocktail helped me with creating collegiate beverages to go with each tailgate posts, and I had the pleasure of taste testing them at home for quality control. ;)

With college football starting up again this week {!!!}, I've been noticing lots of repinning of my tailgate food-related pins -- especially cocktails!

So, I thought it would be nice to round up all of these team-themed cocktails all in one convenient place for ya!*

I'm totally jealous that you'll be mixing spirits while I'm sipping on sparkling water for kick off this year, but traditions must live on and I expect you to carry the torch for me. {Just 10 more weeks until I can get back in the game! Weee!}

Alright, y'all, bust out your Saturday best and cocktail shakers and get to drinkin'! {Responsibly, of course.}

Cheers to another football season!

{Click the link to head to the corresponding Tailgate Thursday post complete with recipes!}

*Since I didn't ever get to a Gators post, I borrowed this delicious-looking drink from the New South Food Company. Credit where credit is due! :)

University of Alabama
The Crimson Cooler

Auburn University 
Eye of the Tiger Cocktail 

University of Tennessee
The Tennessee Rose Cocktail 

University of Kentucky
The Tipsy Wildcat Cocktail

University of Arkansas
The Woo-Woo Pig Cocktail 

Louisiana State University
The Purple Tiger Dream Cocktail 

University of South Carolina 
The Garnet Kamikaze Cocktail  

University of Georgia
The Georgia Bulldog Cocktail 

University of Mississippi {Ole Miss}
The 'Sippi Sipper Cocktail 

Florida State University
The MimOsceola 

University of Florida

Image from New South Food Company

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

How to Host a Chocolate & Wine Pairing Party | Lindt Chocolate + J. Lohr Wines

I have had a little love affair with Lindt Chocolate for quite some time. I can't tell you when it first began, but I can tell you that it probably started the first time I bit into one of their Lindor Truffles. If you haven't ever had one, run, don't walk to any place that sells them and remedy that problem immediately.

The truffles aren't the only things I've come to cherish from Lindt. I started buying their Lindt Excellence 70% Cocoa bars for baking. Except, most of the "baking chocolate supply" never actually made it into baked goods, and the majority made it straight into my belly as an after dinner treat. It's hard to resist.

So, you can imagine that when the opportunity was presented to me to work with Lindt, it was with great enthusiasm that I accepted. But guess what? They wanted to know if I would host a wine pairing party to showcase their yummy Lindt Excellence bars and their buddies J. Lohr Wines.  And, of course, I've traded wine for prenatal vitamins these days, so -- while the idea sounded fabulous -- I needed some assistance.

Luckily, I have amazing friends who are willing to sacrifice a few precious hours to help me with the task I couldn't fully undertake myself in my current state. I mean, I know it's a lot to ask for them to drop everything and come over to eat chocolate and sip wine, but they still found the time and were even pretty nice about it. It's all about sacrifices. ;)

So, I put together a fairly simple little ladies night with a few fun touches here and there.

It's so easy to host a pairing party of your own! Here are some tips on how to set up a great pairing event:

1. Invite awesome people. The company really makes a difference! Try to invite folks who are willing to try new flavors and who, of course, enjoy chocolate and wine. {And reevaluate friendships with anyone who doesn't. Kidding. Sort of.} I used Paperless Post free online invites to let everyone know about the party.

They're the cutest!
2. Create a menu. The best thing about hosting a chocolate & wine pairing party is that you've already got the stars of the menu settled. But you want to make sure to give your guests something else to nibble on so they're not on a drunken sugar high at the end of the night. Simple, complementary bites like cheese, crackers, bread and a few dips or spreads can easily do the trick to round out your menu.

Here's what I came up with:

Mini Cheese Board
featuring New Zealander, Creamy Havarti & Blue Cheese

Crackers with Spread Trio
Kalamata Olive Tapenade, Caramelized Onion Spread
Ricotta-Pesto Cheese Spread
Served with Assorted Crackers & Almonds

Mini Cheese Board
New Zealander, Creamy Havarti & Blue Cheese

Broccoli & Ham Phyllo Cups

Peach, Feta & Arugula Puff Pastry Bites

3. Decorate & set the scene! For decor, I picked up a few things at Michael's -- kraft paper gift bags, chalkboard tags & name clips, decorative paper napkins, an ampersand -- and also used a lot of things I already had a home. {Like old wine corks & candles and even my chenille throw from college to double as a tablecloth. Be resourceful!} I set the table with appetizer plates, Riedel glasses and Pairing Party placemats and I was pretty pleased with the result! {Now, to get myself a real dining room table that seats more than 4 at a time...} I also had relaxing jazzy and big band era tunes playing in the background to give some atmosphere.

4. Make it fun. Sometimes fine products like good chocolate and wine have the tendency to make people get all snobby and use big words and fancy terminology, but it doesn't have to be that way! {Unless you want it to be.} Pairing parties are about sending your palate on a tasting adventure and discovering flavors you enjoy and foods that elevate them to a new level. I loved that the Lindt tasting cards told us exactly how to experience the chocolate, but that we made it fun and casual! Lots of laughs and lots of chatter.

5. Sip & Savor.  There's actually a method and a proper way to experience a pairing to get the maximum flavor experience, believe it or not {if you can keep yourself from devouring all the chocolate immediately}. Here's how it's done:

Click on the image to enlarge.
Following the suggested order {progressing from whites to reds} is the ideal way to move through your pairing. Provide water and bread or unsalted crackers for guests to cleanse their palates between tastings.

Side Note: The crowd favorite was the Lindt Excellence A Touch of Sea Salt chocolate paired J. Lohr Estates Falcon's Perch Pinot Noir. Everyone went nuts over the Lindt Excellence Pineapple chocolates as well... so good! I'm a big fan of the Intense Orange, but not everyone is into orange chocolate. More for me!

I was definitely bummed that the baby bump restricted me from fully participating. {Though it did not stop me from deeply inhaling the aroma of each wine. Yum.} But luckily, just because I couldn't indulge in the wine portion of the party didn't mean that had to abstain from the fun. Chocolate happens to pair perfectly with tea and coffee, too! No one should ever have to sit out from a party that revolves around chocolate -- especially not a pregnant gal. If you're more a tea drinker than a wine lover, or if you're taking a break from alcoholic beverages, you can try out these tea pairing suggestions!

I had so much fun with this tasting and I think my guests did, too! Everyone left with a little Lindt chocolate goody bag and a big smile on their face.

And now I'm about to put a big smile on your face, too: Lindt Chocolate wants to give you the chance to host your own tasting... or indulge in some chocolates all by yourself! They're giving away this amazing gift box of assorted Excellence chocolates to one very lucky reader, and all you have to do is enter below using the Rafflecopter widget provided. Woohoo! I'll be randomly selecting a winner on Monday, September 1!

Disclosure: This post & party was sponsored by Lindt Chocolate. I was compensated for this post and received chocolate, wine and wine glasses for the party. As always, all opinions seen here are my own!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 25, 2014

Chilled Tomatillo & Avocado Soup featuring Stonyfield Organic Yogurt

Have you ever had or made chilled soup? I mean, on purpose. Not because you haven't had a hot meal since your first child entered this world.

It's sort of a weird concept to me since, when I think of soup, I think of a big bowl of steamy goodness on a brisk day.

But cold soup is a thing. Like gazpacho and vichyssois.

The same way that a bowl of hot soup warms you from the inside out on a cold day, chilled soup can be a great way to lower your temp internally when the weather is brutal outside. Being a Floridian, this is a vital survival tactic for me, especially these hot summer days when stepping outside means going from cool and collected to a sweaty mess in about 2 seconds flat {sometimes faster}.

Don't get me wrong -- my favorite method of temperature regulation will always be air conditioning, cool Atlantic waters, ice cream, and frosty cocktails. But since I can't hang out at the beach all day every day sipping mojitos between bites of my ice cream cone during the summer {sad, I know}, it's important to have some alternatives.

So, back to chilled soup.

There are lots of great combos that make for good chilled soups -- some are chunky and full of veggies, others are sweet, fruity and tangy. But the version I was going for when I whipped up today's recipe was something smooth and creamy with a vibrant flavor profile.

Want to wake up your taste buds? Give this Chilled Tomatillo and Avocado soup a try. It can't get any easier to make. Roast tomatillos. Blend with the other ingredients. Chill. Eat.

The combination of roasted tomatillos and the splash of lime juice really give it a "HELLO!" kind of zing, while avocado and Stonyfield Organic Yogurt add creaminess to the mix. It's a like a cool fiesta on your tongue. While you're at it, you can also crumble some tortilla chips over the top, like a reverse bowl of chips and dip. I won't tell.

If you're not really into the idea of cold soup {I've yet to convince my husband this is an acceptable thing to eat}, it also makes for an excellent salad dressing or sauce over chicken, shrimp or fish.

Don't put up with feeling sweaty and sticky. Cool down immediately with some chilled soup... and follow it up with a margarita for good measure. ;)

I am honored to be a member of the Stonyfield Clean Plate Club. I received product or coupons for writing this post, but all opinions are my own.

Chilled Tomatillo & Avocado Soup
Makes 4 servings

10-12 tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed and cut in half
1 small garlic clove, finely minced or grated
1 avocado
1/3 to 1/2 cup Stonyfield Organic Plain Greek Yogurt
Juice of 1/2 a lime
Salt & Pepper to taste

Optional Garnishes: Cilantro, crushed tortilla chips

1. Prepare a baking sheet by lining with foil. Set oven to broil. {500 degrees} Drizzle the lined pan with a bit of olive oil and place tomatillos cut side down, rubbing them lightly to coat with oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper. 

2. Broil tomatillos for about 15-20 minutes, or until they start to look blistered and burnt in places and they are very soft. 

3. Remove from oven and allow to cool until easier to handle. Slide the tomatillo and juices in the pan into a blender. Add garlic, avocado, yogurt and lime juice and blend until smooth.*

4. Taste and adjust seasonings. Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Chill for 2 or 3 hours until cold.

Serve chilled with chopped cilantro or crushed tortilla chips on top. 

*If the result is too thick, add a few tablespoons of water to thin to desired consistency. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Max's Harvest | Delray Beach, Florida

You know a meal is thatgood when you're a little sad you're taking your last bite. Even when you're stuffed to the gills, as I was when I dined at Max's Harvest in Delray Beach.

Photo credit: The Buzz Agency
I was delighted to receive an invitation to come check out the restaurant, especially because I'd already heard such good things. So, I came hungry and let their dishes lead the way to an evening of "Farm to Fork" satisfaction.

Max's Harvest has been around for 3 years and has become a popular spot for locals, which was evident from the bustling bar scene when we were seated at 7pm on a Friday evening. I loved the feel of the restaurant - modern yet rustic, with black and white images on the walls depicting its emphasis on local farm fare.
Photo credit: The Buzz Agency
Our server was beyond knowledgeable about each menu item, down to knowing where each of the farm-fresh ingredients came from -- each locally sourced from nearby farms and throughout the state. With a focus on sustainable, seasonal and simply prepared meals, it's no wonder the ingredients seem to shine in a special way.

The first bite on this flavor journey started with the complimentary zucchini bread they placed on the table. I probably could have eaten an entire basket. I wanted to wander into the kitchen and see if I could catch a peek at how they made it, but I figured I'd sit tight as more food was sure to be on its way.

And sure enough, our server appeared with a dish sent out by the chef: A crispy, Breaded Pork Torchon over compressed watermelon and topped with fresh greens. As you know, I'm not usually a big meat eater, but I did like the combo of the light ingredients and the hearty pork. Steve polished off his half and most of mine, so I'm pretty sure he liked it, too!

The bread had gotten us a little excited and we ordered two appetizers right out of the gate: the Peach & Blueberry Salad with Baby Kale & Arugula, Caramelized Peaches, Blueberries, Pickled Shallots, Ricotta Cheese, Walnut Vinaigrette {holy mouthful!} and Vito's Burrata with Croutons, Red Wine Vinaigrette, Florida Watermelon, Pickled Shallot, Heirloom Tomato and Cucumber. After my first few forkfuls, I knew these were things I could easily order as an entree {mostly because I was tempted to steal Steve's dish and not share} -- they were both so, so good.

The salad was such a perfect combination of flavors: sweet, caramelized peaches and blueberries, savory and creamy ricotta, tart vinaigrette and pickled shallots, fresh and crisp kale and arugula. When the chef popped out of the kitchen to see how we were liking things I'm pretty sure I sputtered nonsensically with stars in my eyes over the salad alone.

The burrata was also a perfect pairing of flavorful elements. Burrata, as it is, is probably among the things I would choose to be part of my last meal on earth. It is so decadent and delicious, and combined with sweet watermelon, fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, it seemed creamier and more delightful. My favorite part of this dish were the croutons that soaked up all the vinaigrette and juices from everything else on the plate. Oh, my.

Next up: Entrees. Our server saw me pat my {round, already stuffed} belly and reprimanded me for not pacing myself, but I ensured him that I'd find the room for at least a few bites. I ordered the Crispy Parmesan Risotto Cake with Mushroom, Favas, Baby Carrot, Zucchini, Pearl Onion, and Tomato-Pepper Coulis and Steve chose Grilled Local Swordfish with Greek Farmer’s Salad, Feta, Chick Pea Fries, and Lemon-Yogurt Sauce. 

They were both so pretty it seemed a shame to deconstruct them, but we dug in anyway to get a taste. I really enjoyed the Risotto Cake with its crisp {but not overfried} exterior and contrasting creamy interior. The veggies gave a nice sweetness to the dish, specifically the little caramelized pearl onions, and though I definitely wasn't able to finish the whole thing right then and there, I still managed to have a few more bites.

I didn't even get to taste the swordfish, but Steve assured me that it was good, as was evident by the fact that he was very excited to box up what was left to polish off as leftovers.

Ok, so I know I said we were both beyond full... but our server tempted us with their desserts du jour and we {well, I} couldn't refuse. They had so many amazing-sounding offerings -- from Blueberry Bread Pudding to Made-to-order Cinnamon Sugar Donuts {for real} -- but we went with a twist on a Florida classic: Key Lime Brulee.

It was a good choice. Tangy, rich key lime filling atop a buttery crust with a crackly layer of bruleed sugar and a beautiful little cloud of whipped cream perched on top. Mmm.

Overall, I couldn't have asked for tastier dishes or better service. If forced to find a downside, the only fault I could find would be noise level of the packed house keeping potential patrons from having a romantic or intimate dining experience. But, to be honest, you'll probably be doing more savoring than chatting, so this may not be a problem after all -- come with a lively crowd and a hungry belly!

A big thank you to Max's Harvest for a fantastic evening of fabulous dining!

Disclosure:  I was invited for a complimentary dinner for two at Max's Harvest to check out their menu. As always, all opinions seen here are my own!

Of course, I had to recreate that crazy-good baby kale salad to share with you here since you couldn't join me at Max's Harvest. {And, let's be honest, I might not have hogged all of it at dinner.}

This salad has a few elements that take some prep, so it isn't exactly a "throw together at the last minute" kind of dish. However, after a bite I think you'll agree that it's worth the trouble to get the flavor combos found here.

Pickled Shallots. Tangy vinaigrette. Caramelized peaches that you could easily eat as dessert. It's sort of magical.

Make it.

Baby Kale Salad with Caramelized Peaches & Blueberries
Inspired by Max's Harvest in Delray Beach, Florida
*Measurements will vary according to taste. Make it your own! :)

A bunch baby kale mixed greens, I like the Organic Girl blend
Whole milk ricotta cheese {I just used a few tablespoons, but again, suit your own tastes}
About 1/4 cup fresh blueberries
About 1/4 cup walnuts or pecans, roughly chopped
Lemon-Honey Vinaigrette {see below}
Pickled Shallots {see below}
Caramelized Peaches {see below}

1. Divide ingredients between two plates. Drizzle with vinaigrette to taste.

Lemon-Honey Vinaigrette 

Juice of half a lemon
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Sprinkle of salt
Sprinkle of pepper
About 1/4 cup olive oil

1. In a small bowl, whisk together first six ingredients. Continue whisking while you stream in olive oil to emulsify. Drizzle over salad.

Quick Pickled Shallots
Barely adapted from Bon Appetit

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 large shallots, finely sliced

1. In a small saucepan, bring cider vinegar, sugar and salt to a boil. Simmer until the sugar and salt have dissolved.

2. Pour hot liquid over sliced shallots in a small canning jar. Top with lid but leave loose. Let cool on counter top. {They will soften and absorb the pickling flavor in about an hour, but the longer they sit the better, so if you think to do this a few days ahead, you'll get the best results!}

3. Refrigerate for future use.

Caramelized Peaches

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 large ripe peach, sliced into 8 pieces

1. In a small skillet, melt butter over medium high heat. Add brown sugar and stir, allowing the sugar to dissolve and the mixture to become bubbly.

2. Add the peaches to the sugar mixture and cook until some of the juices begin to leak out and the caramel mixture begins to thicken, about 3-4 minutes.

3. Flip the peaches to cook and caramelize other sides, turning carefully as not to break them up. Swirl them around a bit in the pan to coat them in the sugar mixture and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until the liquid has become syrupy and the peaches are softened and caramelized.

Note: These would be SO GOOD over vanilla ice cream. Or with a crumble topping. Or alone. They're good. Did I say that already?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

{Flourless} Double Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

Two incredibly exciting things happened the other day: 1. I noticed some bloggers posting pics of ingredients including cinnamon, pumpkin, and things with the word "spice" in the recipe title, and 2. My stats started showing an increase in views of my Ultimate Gameday Food Guide pin. These are very good signs that Fall is drawing near, bringing with it both football season and the end of my pregnancy adventure.

These days I get the question, "How are you feeling?" asked a lot, mostly due to the fact that "the bump" is now highly visible, even to the untrained eye. {i.e. The man at the FedEx store who gave me a dirty look when I picked up a shipment of wine for a blog-related project. Not to worry, I'm hosting a party at my house, not having one in my belly.}

The answer, I'm glad to say,  is "Not bad at all."

I'm entering my 3rd trimester in less than a week {!} and the only real complaint I have is that I'm no longer able to go at warp speed as I'm accustomed to. Things take a little more energy when you've got a stowaway on board. You may find yourself slightly winded from simple tasks like putting lotion on your legs after showering or taking off your jeans at the end of a long day. There are frequent pit stops to public restrooms, sometimes in the middle of what's supposed to be a "quick" trip to the store. Even sitting starts to become a challenge when you realize that you no longer bend in the middle, often forcing you into a reclined position so that your lungs have some room to expand. Several times a day, my belly begins shape-shifting as my son practices what I can only guess are his acrobatic skills. I've considered calling the circus just to prepare them for their future headliner.

Sure, it's a challenge getting used to increased weight and decreased mobility... but I'm doing my best to continue being as active as possible. This means I'm still spending time on my feet in the kitchen, which is important to me because I know that the luxury of recipe testing for hours will be coming to an end all too soon.

The great part about having less energy {yes, something positive has come of this!} is challenging myself to find and create recipes that require less time and less ingredients. Those are two bonuses for anyone, not just those with a bun in the oven!

That's how these cookies happened. It all started with a wonderful mail delivery from my friends at Peanut Butter & Co....

Dangerous things can happen when you ship 5 jars of flavored peanut butter to a pregnant woman. Luckily, Steve and I {and even Farley} have been taking turns diving into the peanut butter collection. His favorite use? In smoothies and on a spoon. Mine? Smeared on a banana or crisp apple slices. Or on a spoon. We can all agree, the stuff is great on a spoon. {Yes, even Farley.}

So all this peanut butter naturally gave way to ideas about baked goods. And believe me, there are tons to be had! But remember, I was looking for simplicity here, so the less ingredients, the better.

When I stumbled across this flourless peanut butter cookie recipe from Tina's Chic Corner, I was inspired to tweak her already fabulous recipe and make them my own. Deciding to use the Dark Chocolate Dreams Peanut Butter was the biggest struggle in making these because that's my favorite flavor and I didn't want to waste a single scoop on something unworthy. But as it turns out, they were worth the sacrifice.

I have become the queen of lazy cookies -- the kind that require little more effort than throwing a handful of ingredients into a bowl, mixing them and plopping them on a cookie sheet to bake. These would fall under this category. I'm thinking once the kid is older these types of recipes will be useful for last minute "Mom, I have to bring something in..." type moments.

For now, they're easy enough to mix up even on the days when I'm winded from tying my shoelaces. Hope you'll enjoy them as much as I do!

Disclosure: Peanut Butter & Co. sent me complimentary jars of their peanut butter for me to try. I have not been compensated for this post and the opinions written here are all my own! Thanks for the goodies, PB&Co!

{Flourless} Double Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies
Makes about 28 Cookies

1 cup Peanut Butter & Co. Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup rolled oats {gluten free if you want to keep the whole recipe GF}
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
6 squares of dark chocolate, chopped into chunks {or prechopped chocolate chunks. Or chocolate chips. You get the idea.}
{Optional} Sea salt for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 350. Prepare a cookie sheet by lining with parchment or a silicone baking mat.

2. In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients {except chocolate chunks} until thoroughly combined. Gently stir in chocolate chunks until well distributed.

3. Using a cookie scoop, drop scoops of dough onto cookie sheet, spacing about 2 to 2 1/2 inches apart {these will spread a bit}. If desired, sprinkle with sea salt for a little extra flavor.

4. Bake for 11-12 minutes or until the cookies are just set. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. {They will be quite soft right out of the oven but firm up a bit and become chewy once they're cooled.}

Monday, August 11, 2014

Easy Balsamic Portobello Tacos

Pregnancy has resulted in a funny emotional side effect for me: Abundant euphoria.

I was completely anticipating mood swings like the ones you see on TV; the kind where the expectant mother is happily chattering away one moment and then having a royal hormonal meltdown the next. I was ready for tearful hysterics over cell phone provider commercials and sudden, unexpected fury over my husband eating the last of the hummus.

Luckily for me {and for him!}, that has not been the case at all. If anything, I've been eerily pleasant despite the multitude of new and unusual feelings that crop up daily as this baby continues to take up ample residence in my insides.

My emotions normally range from contentment to pure excitement and joy over nothing especially exciting which -- I must say -- is both refreshing and strange. A cozy Saturday night in comfy pj's watching Dateline with my husband and pup. Bliss! A post-workout shower using my new favorite soap? Rapture! 

I'm ready to be rid of some of the small unpleasantries that come with growing a little human... but can I please hang on to this bizarre jubilance that has washed over me?? How THAT would come in handy during a 2 a.m. feeding...

Even though this unexplained phenomenon has made for a wonderful coping mechanism in the face of any disappointment I may have faced throughout these months, it doesn't mean I haven't had some things to be bummed about. For example, this week alone I'm dealing with a few things. My little sister is moving to Virginia for law school, my grandma is in the hospital again for back surgery and one of my good friends is unexpectedly moving back home far from here.

Though I'm a little sad, my "pregnancy hormone life preserver" has kept me afloat in the sea of all things melancholy. That and food. Food always helps, too.

Comfort food can come in so many forms -- rich, satisfying stews; sweet, decadent desserts; classics that take all day to make. And then there's these: Spicy portobello tacos.

You know why these are comforting? Because they're so quick and easy to make. And because they're filling without being bad for you. {Hello, meatless Monday.} And the one-two punch of flavor from syrupy balsamic glaze and fiery adobo sauce doesn't hurt things, either.

I totally ripped off the idea from some new menu items I got to preview a few weeks ago at Cantina Laredo in Palm Beach Gardens. I enjoyed them so much there that I knew I had to recreate them at home. Especially because drowning my sorrows in their fresh Pineapple Margaritas isn't currently an option. If it were, all bets may be off.

But for now, I'm counting on pregnancy highs and spicy tacos to get me through the hard times. If you ask me, that's a pretty potent cocktail. Cheers to happier times ahead.

Easy Balsamic Portobello Tacos
Inspired by Cantina Laredo
Makes about 4 tacos

3-4 large portobello mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
1/2 an onion, diced
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons balsamic glaze*
4 of your favorite tortillas {I used a corn/wheat blend}, heated through
1 tablespoon adobo sauce from canned chipotles in adobo*
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese, divided
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
Optional: 1/4 cup queso fresco

1. Heat a few teaspoons of oil in a skillet over high heat. Add portobello slices and cook, stirring often, until they start to release their juices. When liquid has somewhat cooked away, add onion and a sprinkle of salt. Continue to cook until the onions have softened and the mixture isn't as wet.

2. Add balsamic glaze and toss to fully coat mushrooms. Cook for another minute or two to let the mushrooms absorb the glaze.

3. Set out warm tortillas. {You can heat them through by wrapping in a damp paper towel and zapping in the microwave for a few seconds or by individually placing them on a heated skillet for about 30-45 seconds on each side}. Smear a little adobo sauce on each one. {Warning: This stuff can be pretty spicy! If you're not used to the heat, you may want to go easy on the sauce.}

4. Place a scoop of cooked balsamic portobello mixture on each tortilla. Top with a sprinkle of goat cheese {and/or queso fresco if desired} and some cilantro, along with any other of your favorite taco toppings.

*For Balsamic Glaze

You can buy pre-made balsamic glaze in most grocery stores, or easily make it at home by bringing about 1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar to a boil over high heat and then allowing it to reduce down to a few tablespoons.

You'll know it's ready when you dip in a spoon and it coats it like a syrup. If you cook it down too much, just add a little water or extra balsamic and stir until you get the right consistency. You can also add a dash of honey for some extra sweetness if desired.

**Chipotles in adobo last me forever. I simply scoop them out of the can and place them individually on a lined baking pan to freeze, then pop them into a zip top bag and store in the freezer. I toss these into soup, chili, sauces and even rice whenever I want a smoky, spicy kick.