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Easy and comforting side dishes

I love side dishes.  I know they aren’t supposed to be the ‘star’ of the meal, but some of my favorite foods are considered side dishes.  For example, green bean casserole is my favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner with mashed potatoes coming in at a close second.  This past week I made two side dishes that I could eat as my entire meal they were so good.  In fact, I did take the leftovers as my lunch the next day and I felt completely satisfied (except that I wanted more).

First I made a Sweet Potatoes Au Gratin using Gouda cheese.  I got the idea for this dish from a dinner party we went to recently.  They made a delicious au gratin using sweet potatoes which I had never thought to do.  I don’t know what cheese they used so I went with gouda.  I have seen other recipes using gruyere, but I could not find any at my grocery store and gouda worked out really well.  So simple to make, yet so complex in flavor. I’ve always loved the taste of rosemary and sweet potatoes so I know I wanted to add some to the dish.  The sweetness of the potatoes mixed with the smokiness of the cheese was a delicious pairing.  What my husband really loved is that it was not too greasy like some au gratins can be.  This recipe made 4-6 servings depending on if you are using it as a side dish or your only dish.  It is easy to make in larger quantities though, just double the amounts and use a larger baking dish.

  1. Peel and slice 2 large sweet potatoes, being careful to make them all the same width so that they cook evenly.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, combine 1/2 cup of half and half (you can use actually heavy cream or even milk, whatever you have in your fridge) with 2 Tbsp of dried rosemary, 1 Tbsp of garlic powder and a pinch of salt.
  3. Add the sliced sweet potatoes to the cream mixture, coating each slice.
  4. Line the bottom of a greased baking dish (1 and 1/2 qt circular dish or 8×8 square dish) with a layer of the sweet potatoes, then top evenly with a layer of gouda cheese (I used pre sliced pieces from the deli section and that worked perfectly), repeat the layering and finish it with a layer of sweet potatoes on top.  Pour the rest of the cream mixture over the potatoes and cheese.photo 2
  5. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Remove the baking dish from the oven and press down on the sweet potatoes with a spatula so that the cream covers them again.  Continue to bake at 375 for another 20 minutes and then remove press with the spatula again.  Continue to bake at 375 for 10 more minutes.  It should get very crispy and bubbly and it should become very brown on top.
I was so excited to dig in that I forgot to take a picture before I started to dish it out.

I was so excited to dig in that I forgot to take a picture before I started to dish it out.

Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, green bean casserole is my favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner.  My aunt also makes something similar using mixed vegetables that I love so I created a dish that brings these two delicious side dishes together and tastes great.  I will call it Mixed Veggie Casserole.

  1. Saute sliced baby carrots with 1 Tbsp each of olive oil and minced garlic in a sauce pan.  While they are cooking slice up the rest of the veggies-portobello mushroom, 1/2 bunch of cauliflower and 1 bunch of broccoli.
  2. Add the cauliflower to the carrots and continue to cook for a few minutes before adding the broccoli and mushrooms.  Add 1/4 cup of white wine and cover the pan.  Let the vegetables cook for 5 minutes until they start to become soft.DSC01273
  3. Pour the vegetables into a baking dish (2 and 1/2 qt circular dish or 9×13 rectangular dish), add 1 small can of cream of mushroom soup and sprinkle the top with garlic salt and black pepper.DSC01274DSC01275DSC01276
  4. Top with fried onion pieces and grated swiss cheese.DSC01278DSC01279
  5. Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until the cheese begins to brown.DSC01280

Ingredients for the Sweet Potatoes Au Gratin:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced evenly
  • 4 oz of gouda cheese
  • 1/2 cup of half and half (milk or heavy cream works too)
  • 2 Tbsp dried rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 pinch of salt

Ingredients for Mixed Veggie Casserole:

  • 1/2 small bag of baby carrots chopped
  • 1 portobello mushroom cleaned and chopped
  • 1/2 bunch of cauliflower chopped
  • 1 bunch of broccoli chopped
  • 1/4 cup of white wine
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 small can of cream of mushroom soup
  • 4 oz of grated swiss cheese
  • 1/4 cup of fried onion pieces
  • 1/2 tsp each of garlic salt and black pepper

Enjoy!

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Roast Beef with red wine gravy and vegetables

I like to see what is on sale at the grocery store and then plan my meals around that.  This week beef was on sale and I found a great beef round roast cut so I decided to do a roast beef.  My mom bought me an awesome roasting pan for my bridal shower a few years ago and when we moved to our new apartment I didn’t think it would fit in our smaller stove, but it does!

Like I’ve mentioned before, I really love cooking with wine so I thought a red wine gravy would go nicely with a roast beef. It was great, especially with the roasted vegetables.  Obviously roasting beef takes more time than a typical dinner, but it smells delicious and is great for a dinner party or leftovers if you’re cooking for one, two or a small family.

  1. Rub the beef completely with minced garlic, salt, and your favorite herbs.  I used my Tastefully Simple “Rustic Herb Seasoning” that I absolutely love.  Let this sit for at least an hour in the refrigerator before cooking.  You can even do this the night before if you want to.DSC01249DSC01250
  2. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Place the beef on the rack of a roasting pan with the fat side up so that the fat will melt and keep the beef tender as it cooks.
  3. Put the roasting pan in the oven and cook at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.  Then turn the oven down to 325 degrees and continue to cook to your desired doneness. I started it out at a higher temperature to get a crust on the beef first, but you can do it at one temperature the whole time if you prefer.  My roast was 4 pounds and I used this website as a guideline for how long to cook it so I continued to cook the roast for another hour and a half or so.  I also checked it periodically with a meat thermometer until it was at the desired temperature.  Remember to take it out when it’s 10 degrees lower than the desired temperature because it will continue to cook.
  4. While the roast is in the oven prepare your vegetables.  (I used baby carrots, fingerling potatoes, 1/2 an onion and baby portobello mushrooms)  Put them all in a large zip loc bag with minced garlic, olive oil and the same seasonings you used on the beef-in my case, the Rustic Herb Seasoning.  Add 2 Tbsp of flour and shake.  The flour will thicken up the red wine and beef juices and create a nice and easy gravy.DSC01253
  5. With about an hour to go on the cooking time add the vegetables to the bottom of the roasting pan with about 1 cup of wine.DSC01254
  6. Continue to cook, stirring the vegetables periodically, until the meat is cooked to your liking.
  7. Let the meat sit for about 15 minutes before cutting so that the juices don’t run out.DSC01257

    red wine gravy and vegetables after they roasted

    red wine gravy and vegetables after they roasted

  8. I served this with homemade buttermilk biscuits and it was a hit with my husband.DSC01260

The Rustic Herb Seasoning from Tastefully Simple really makes the dish.  If you want to order some for yourself, here is my consultant’s (who happens to be a best friend of mine) website.  You can place orders with her.

I love making meals that also have great leftover options.  We made roast beef sandwiches the next night-topped the sliced beef with some of the red wine gravy and swiss cheese and put them in the oven once assembled so that the cheese melted and the rolls got crispy.  I also cut up the rest of the roast beef later in the week and mixed it with the vegetables and gravy, added swiss cheese on top and baked it at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes which tasted like a beef stew casserole-delicious and easy.  Great for winter time.

Ingredients:

  • Whatever size and cut of beef you like or, if you’re like me, is on sale this week.
  • 1-2 Tbsp each of herb seasoning, minced garlic and salt (depending on the size of your beef, use just enough to cover the beef in the rub)
  • 1 small bag of fingerling potatoes (or about 3 rustic potatoes cut in quarters)
  • 1/2 small bag of baby carrots
  • 1 small package of sliced baby portobello mushrooms
  • 1/2 of a yellow onion chopped
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp of the herb seasoning that you used on the beef (for the vegetables)
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic (for the vegetables)
  • 2 Tbsp of flour
  • 1 cup of red wine (whatever you have on hand)

 

Enjoy!

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

What do I do with all of this Buttermilk?

 

I had to buy buttermilk last week to make Irish Soda Bread and I had so much left over which always happens.  The recipe always calls for a little bit of buttermilk, but even the smallest container I find at the store is too much.  This time I decided to not let it go to waste.  I made Buttermilk Pancakes and Southern Biscuits using buttermilk.  These recipes were not my own, but I would suggest them to you if you’re looking for ways to use up your buttermilk.  I found the pancake recipe on trusty Allrecipes and I found the biscuit recipe on the Food Network website, can’t go wrong there.

I did make a few changes to the recipes.

I added a little sugar to the pancakes because I didn’t want them to be too bland or tart tasting.  However, I decided to do this after I had started making the pancakes on the stove so I ended up sprinkling a tiny bit of sugar onto one side of each pancake as I cooked them.  This actually worked out really nicely because when I flipped them the side with the sugar sort of caramelized and gave it a nice taste along with the buttermilk flavor of the pancakes.  Find the recipe I used here.

the trick to the perfect pancake is to flip them when they begin to bubble.  You should be able to see the outer part firming up.

the trick to the perfect pancake is to flip them when they begin to bubble. You should be able to see the outer part firming up.

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I love serving pancakes with strawberries.

I love serving pancakes with strawberries.

I added some garlic butter sauce to the top of each of the biscuits when they came out of the oven.  Next time I will add some grated cheddar cheese to the dough before I form them and see how that turns out, but the garlic butter definitely added a good flavor to the recipe.  You can find the recipe I used for the biscuits here.

combine the dry ingredients with the butter and shortening using your hands

combine the dry ingredients with the butter and shortening using your hands

make a well in the middle and pour the buttermilk in

make a well in the middle and pour the buttermilk in

mix until just combined

mix until just combined

place onto floured surface and sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough

place onto floured surface and sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough

fold over about 5-6 times, not too much though because you don't want the butter to melt with the heat of your hands

fold over about 5-6 times, not too much though because you don’t want the butter to melt with the heat of your hands

press out to about an inch thick

press out to about an inch thick

I didn't have any suitable cutters so I used a ramekin and it worked fine

I didn’t have any suitable cutters so I used a ramekin and it worked fine

mine are not all uniform, but they tasted good

mine are not all uniform, but they tasted good

and this is a picture after I brushed them each with a little garlic butter.

and this is a picture after I brushed them each with a little garlic butter.

For garlic butter simply melt 1 Tbsp of butter and then add 1 tsp of garlic powder and mix together.  Delicious addition to these biscuits.

Both recipes were really easy to follow and yielded good results.  I will make them again.

Enjoy!

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2013 in Breakfast, Comfort Food, Leftovers

 

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Lemon-Garlic Chicken and Mushrooms in a white wine sauce

I love wine, I love garlic and I love lemon.  Cooking with them is something that I do often because they compliment each other so well and go with so many things.  This dish is is an easy dish that is sure to please especially if you like wine, garlic and lemon.

  1. Pour yourself a glass of the wine that you will be using in the dish.  
  2. Heat Olive Oil and minced garlic in a large frying pan (I use a wok)
  3. Salt and pepper each side of the chicken breasts and place them in the pan. Brown on both sides.DSC01205DSC01207
  4. Add the mushrooms and lemon juice. Continue to cook for a few minutes until the mushrooms begin to change to a darker color.DSC01208
  5. Add about 1/4 cup of white wine (I have done a variation of this with red wine and brown sugar instead of lemon if you prefer red over white), 1 tsp of garlic powder and 1 chicken bouillon cube (this is not necessary, but I love the flavor that it adds).DSC01209
  6. Cover the pan and cook for about 10 minutes.DSC01211
  7. Meanwhile, in a small bowl add 1 Tbsp milk to 1 Tbsp flour and mix until there are no clumps.DSC01212
  8. Add a few spoon-fulls of the hot white wine sauce to the milk and flour mixture and mix together.  Pour that into the pan and mix with a whisk until it combined with the white wine and mushrooms.DSC01213
  9. Add about another 1/4 cup of milk to the pan and stir to combine.  Allow this to boil over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. You can continue to add more wine or milk to get it to the thickness that you like.DSC01214
  10. Cover the pan again and continue to cook for 10 more minutes.  The sauce should continue to thicken up and reach a beautiful brown color (I know “beautiful brown color” isn’t something you hear often, but I promise this sauce will look appetizing).DSC01216
  11. While this is cooking, cook your favorite kind of rice or pasta as directed.  I like to use brown rice with this dish, but I have also used ziti, spaghetti and white rice and they have all been great.  You just want something to go with it that will soak up the sauce and I feel rice does this the best.  Couscous is also a great choice.
  12. After the rice (or pasta) is cooked add it to the pan with the chicken and mushrooms and mix it through.  Top it will parsley (fresh is best, but dried works too-it’s what I used tonight).  Allow this to cook for another minute or two uncovered on low heat just so that the rice gets coated and full of the flavor.DSC01219

Serve this with some garlic and wine steamed broccoli for a nice touch.  Simply cut up the broccoli and place the floret pieces into a saute pan with 1 or 2 Tbsp of white wine and 1 Tbsp of minced garlic.  Cover the broccoli and cook until the broccoli is the texture you like. We like ours crunchy so I just cook it until it turns bright green and that is perfect for us.

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Ingredients:

  • 4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 cup cleaned and sliced baby portobello mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup of lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup white wine (plus extra if needed or desired)
  • 1/4 cup and 1 Tbsp of milk (plus extra if needed or desired)
  • 1 Tbsp of flour
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube (if desired for extra flavor)
  • 1 tsp or so of garlic powder
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh or dried parsley to taste (I use about 2 Tbsp)
  • Brown rice cooked as directed (or pasta if preferred)
  • 1-2 crowns of broccoli chopped and steamed

Enjoy!

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2013 in Dinner

 

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The breakfast of [tired] champions

Everyone knows that a good breakfast is important and I ALWAYS eat breakfast, but I have noticed that the type of breakfast I have also impacts how my day goes. I love when I can wake up slowly and make a delicious and hearty breakfast or when my wonderful husband surprises me with a delicious breakfast in bed (which he does pretty often). But let’s face it, sometimes there is just no time for that.  The earlier I have to wake up the more I need a good breakfast and the less likely I am to have time to prepare it because of that darn snooze button that I love so much! So, I have started making breakfast ahead of time and then I have something to look forward to getting out of bed for.  It’s already ready so it’s not work, it’s just delicious.

I have made breakfast burritos ahead of time, mini quiches ahead of time, egg-mcmuffins ahead of time, etc.  If I’m really ambitious and make a ton of breakfast treats I freeze them and we have our own microwavable breakfast that is healthier and cheaper than those I can find in the frozen food section at the grocery store.

My second mom (Eric’s mom) makes delicious breakfast sandwiches on biscuits and buttermilk biscuits were on sale this week so I had some in the fridge ready to use for something.  Last night I decided I would make these into breakfast for a few days.  I would say a week, but there is no way that they are going to last a week in our fridge.  In order to make the eggs the right size for the biscuits I baked them in a muffin tin instead of scrambling them or frying them on the stove.  It turned out great and this morning when my alarm went off at 5 am I was excited to warm up a delicious breakfast that would fill me up and get me off to a great start! And guess what? It was a great day.  Thanks breakfast!

  1. Prepare biscuits (whatever kind you have or are on sale) according the the directions on the package.  You could definitely make your own biscuits from scratch too, but that’s not AS easy.
  2. While the biscuits are cooking scramble your eggs in a small-medium size bowl.  For 8 biscuits I used 4 eggs and 1/4 of a cup of milk.  Fact: I always use milk in my scrambled eggs to make them more fluffy.  Add a dash of salt and pepper to the scrambled egg mixture.
  3. Lightly grease a muffin tin using cooking spray and divide the egg mixture evenly into the muffin tin.  Remember how many biscuits you’re making so that you don’t have too many or not enough egg “patties” at the end.
  4. Sprinkle some grated cheddar cheese into the scrambled eggs in the muffin tin.  Shake the muffin tin slightly so that the cheese mixes in and doesn’t just stay on top of the egg.
  5. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees until they begin to brown on top (about 10-15 minutes depending on how many you are making at once)
  6. Cut the biscuits in half and place the bottoms in a baking dish (preferably one that has a lid for storage purposes later).
  7. Add one egg “patty” on top of each of the biscuit bottoms and add a slice of cheddar cheese on top of the egg.  Place the biscuit top on the egg/cheese.DSC01203
  8. Store your dish of biscuits in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze each biscuit sandwich individually and keep them for a lot longer (I’ve made a months worth ahead of time before and they were still great).
  9. Warm a biscuit sandwich in the microwave for about 1 minute anytime you need a quick and tasty breakfast.  Pair with a cup of your favorite yogurt or some fresh fruit and, of course, a cup of coffee!

These biscuits only had egg and cheese inside, but I have done them with sausage patties and bacon before.  My husband said these were so good that he didn’t even miss the bacon.  Now, that’s a compliment.  Add whatever you like and make it your own perfect breakfast bite.

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Ingredients:

  • Eggs (I used 4 to make 8 biscuit sandwiches)
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • salt and pepper
  • grated cheddar cheese (about 1/4 cup for 8 biscuits)
  • thinly sliced cheddar cheese (one for each biscuit sandwich)
  • Refrigerated, prepared biscuit dough-such as the Pillsbury ones (I used a package of 8 for this recipe)

Enjoy!

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2013 in Breakfast, Comfort Food

 

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An award? For me?

liebster-award

I was nominated by Un Assaggio of food, wine, & marriage for the Liebster Award.  I had never heard of this award before and am very flattered.  I texted my husband right away: “I was nominated for a blog award by someone I have never met!” and he has decided that this deserves cake.  I love him!  Being new to this whole blogging thing and trying to learn all I can from other bloggers, the encouragement is greatly appreciated and surprising actually.

Anyway I was trying to find an official page that explains the Liebster Award, but had no luck.  From what other people have posted and from the description given by the person who nominated me it is a creative way to share and promote blogs that you read, but are not as well known yet (specifically those that have less than 200 followers).  I like this!  Encouragement is wonderful and I think it’s fun that this blogging thing is a community full of people who support and encourage others.  Also, awards are great no matter how or why they started!  So, I’ll keep it going.

Here’s a description that was passed to me in my nomination from Un Assaggio of food, wine, & marriage:

“The Liebster Award is given to up and coming bloggers who have less than 200 followers…

Nominees of the Liebster Award must…

  1. Post 11 things about themselves.
  2. Answer the questions that the tagger/nominator has posted for them.
  3. Create 11 questions and choose (nominate) 11 blogs of 200 followers or less and link them in the post.
  4. Go to their page and tell them.”

11 things about myself:

  1. I have been married to my best friend for a year and a half.
  2. I really love to bake, but we’re also trying to eat healthier so I enjoy finding healthier baking recipes or giving away the goodies that I do make.
  3. I love coffee.
  4. I am a barista and I love it.
  5. I believe in God and strive to live each day to glorify Him.
  6. I live in DC and walking by the Capitol never gets old.
  7. I want to open my own coffeehouse some day and maybe have a bakery as well.
  8. I would love to write a cookbook with my mom.
  9. Despicable Me is my favorite movie.
  10. I enjoy trying new wines.
  11. I enjoy chocolate maybe a little too much.

My answers to Un Assaggio of food, wine, & marriage:

  1. What inspired you to start your blog?My husband told me one night that I should start writing down the recipes that I come up with while I’m cooking and I thought this would be a fun way to do it.
  2. Dog person or cat person?Definitely a dog person! 🙂
  3. Favorite place you’ve visited?I would have to say Ireland.
  4. What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?Moving to Washington, DC with my husband in a leap of faith to be part of a great community and to put foot steps to our dream.
  5. Best book you’ve read in the past year?The Resilient Life by Gordan MacDonald
  6. What is your favorite season?Fall
  7. What is your favorite movie?Despicable Me. I know it’s a children’s movie, but it just makes me laugh no matter how many times I see it.
  8. What is your real favorite movie? The one you don’t want to admit.I would say Despicable Me again.  I kind of didn’t want to admit it in the first question.
  9. Who is the most interesting person you have ever met?My husband.  I could talk to him for hours and I love learning more about him every day.  He is the person I am most interested in and that interests me the most.
  10. What is your go-to comfort food?Hands down, macaroni and cheese!
  11. What is your deepest fear?I do not like spiders or mice and I absolutely have a fear that they will crawl on me while I’m sleeping.  Yes, I live in a city. No, we don’t have rodent problems in our apartment.  But that is my deepest fear.

 Here are my nominations for The Liebster Award, check them out:

http://theveggieyogi.com/
http://itsalotmore.wordpress.com/
http://thefearlesscookingclub.com/
http://motherworkerchefwife.wordpress.com/
http://healthfoodienut.wordpress.com/
http://thekitchencollective.wordpress.com/
http://polkadotpastasauce.com/
http://jonishungry.com/
http://sugarmapleinn.wordpress.com/
http://healthyandsheglowsit.com/
http://livingfullywithout.com/

My 11 questions to you all:

  1. What is your favorite food to cook?
  2. What is your favorite food to eat?
  3. What was your favorite childhood book?
  4. Why did you start your blog?
  5. How do you decide what to cook?
  6. How often do you go to the grocery store?
  7. What is your biggest dream?
  8. Recipes or no recipes?
  9. What your favorite color?
  10. What do you hope comes out of your blogging?
  11. What is your favorite Holiday?
 
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Posted by on February 11, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Cilantro-Lime salad dressing

I really love going to places like Sweet Green and Chop’t for salads, but I realized that it’s mostly the dressing that I really enjoy.  I can put together the other ingredients, but they always have such an interesting variety of dressings.  I bought a salad for lunch the other day and it cost about $10.  It was delicious, but I knew I could make the same salad for a lot less money.

I found a link on Pinterest to a website that lists different homemade salad dressings that all sound amazing and easy.  So, I tried the cilantro lime dressing because that’s the dressing that I love at Sweet Green.  This dressing was so simple to make and is inexpensive and healthy.  It was so refreshing.  I will not be paying $10 for a salad again.  Now that I know the basics on making salad dressing at home I don’t plan to buy store bought again either.  I will need to buy a salad dressing bottle/shaker, but for now I just cleaned out an empty bottle and used that.

  1. cut the stems off 1 bundle of cilantro and put the leafy part into a food processor, puree into smaller piecesDSC01187DSC01188
  2. add in the olive oil, lime juice, orange juice, minced garlic, salt and pepper and puree until combined and smooth

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So easy! I can’t wait to try another recipe for salad dressing, but this one is going to be hard to beat I think.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 packed cup of cilantro (I only used the leafy part, not the stems)
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of lime juice
  • 1/4 cup of orange juice
  • 1 tsp or so of minced garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste

Enjoy!

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2013 in Salad

 

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Fresh Ingredients

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