Friday, May 6, 2011

Strawberry Lemonade

One last recipe from our birthday extravaganza, and it's an easy but oh-so-good one! I remember my mom making this when I was younger. Incredibly refreshing, this will hit the spot on a hot summer day.

Just as a reminder, if you want the entire menu from our party, you'll find it here. Also, this is a great recipe to make if you have any strawberry puree leftover from making the frosting for the Strawberry Cupcakes.

Strawberry Lemonade
Source: MSPI Mama's mama

1 12-oz. container frozen lemonade concentrate
5 large strawberries, cleaned and stemmed
powdered sugar, to taste

In a large pitcher, prepare lemonade according to package directions.

Place strawberries in a blender and add a splash of prepared lemonade. Puree strawberries until smooth. Add strawberries to lemonade and stir. Taste lemonade. Stir in a sprinkle of powdered sugar until proper sweetness is reached. Serve over ice.

Tip: I use powdered sugar because it dissolves quickly into the lemonade. The amount you use will really depend on how sweet your strawberries taste.

Quick Start with MSPI Mama: This is one of my Quick Start recipes

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Slow-Cooked Pinto Beans

Another recipe from our birthday bonanza. (And since it's Cinco de Mayo, I consider this one quite appropriate.) I know for most people, their idea of feeding a crowd usually involves a phone call to their favorite pizza joint or other restaurant. Unfortunately, when on the MSPI diet, that isn't always an option.

So what's the trick to feeding a crowd? In order to keep my sanity the day of the event, I always, always plan a menu where the bulk of the food can be prepared ahead of time and reheated for the event. And tacos with all the fixings works great!

Although these beans are good straight out of the slow cooker, they actually get even better when made ahead of time. The beans really soak in the flavor of the spices when allowed to cool and then reheated, which is why it is the perfect recipe when planning a get-together!

To help you out, here's my menu for the party and a preparation timeline:

Two days before the event
Taco meat made with Homemade Taco Seasoning
Slow-Cooked Pinto Beans (recipe below)

One day before the event
Strawberry Cupcakes (just the cakes, not the frosting)
Strawberry Lemonade
Restaurant-Style Salsa served with tortilla chips

Day of the event
Frosting for the Strawberry Cupcakes
Mexican Rice (I cooked it on the stove and then kept it warm in a slow cooker.)
Fixings for the tacos

Slow-Cooked Pinto Beans
Source: MSPI Mama

1 lb. dry pinto beans
2 cans MSPI-friendly chicken broth
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 4-oz. can chopped green chiles
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper, optional
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

The night before, sort and rinse dry pinto beans. Place in a bowl and cover with water. Soak overnight. The next morning, drain beans and place them in a slow cooker with the other ingredients. Cover with the lid and cook on low for 8-10 hours, or until the beans are tender. Add salt, to taste, and adjust other seasonings as well.

Quick Soak Method: Forget to soak your beans overnight? You can do the quick soak method by placing the beans in a sauce pan and covering them with water. Bring to a boil for two minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and cover with the lid. Soak for one hour. Drain water and proceed with the slow cooker.

Stove Top Method: Don't have a slow cooker? Once the beans have been soaked, place them in a large sauce pan with the other ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for two hours or until beans are tender, stirring occasionally. Add water, as needed, to keep the beans from drying out.

Tip: Not a fan of onions and garlic? Only cut the onion in half and leave the garlic whole (but slightly smashed). When the beans are finished cooking, you can pick the onion and garlic out and throw them away.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Homemade Chili and Taco Seasoning

I mentioned in my last post that we had tacos with all the fixings for Caroline's birthday party and that I would be sharing some of the recipes, well, here's a simple but oh-so-important recipe: taco seasoning.

Now, I used to just buy taco seasoning packets prior to this whole MSPI diet thing, but not all seasonings packets are MSPI-friendly. And after reading the backs of those packages to find one that was safe, I realized there are a lot of unnecessary ingredients in those packets, like way too much sodium and preservatives. I figured making my own would be pretty easy and probably taste better, too.

I've tried a few different combinations from recipes that I've found on the internet, but I've finally settled on this mixture as my favorite. Obviously, you can tailor the recipe to your own preferences, but this is the way I like it.

Homemade Chili and Taco Seasoning
Source: Adapted from My Baking Addition

4 tbsp. of chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. dried minced onion
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. paprika
2 tbsp. ground cumin
3 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper

In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients. Store in an air tight container at room temperature for up to a year.

When making chili or tacos using one pound of ground beef or turkey, start with 1-1/2 tablespoons of the seasoning blend and adjust according to your tastes.

Quick Start with MSPI Mama: This is one of my Quick Start recipes

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Strawberry Cupcakes

For those of you who are fans of my Facebook page, you know that my baby girl turned 1 on Friday. Really? ONE YEAR OLD? Yes, a whole year has flown by! Wowsers!

We celebrated Caroline's first year with a family party on Saturday. We stuffed ourselves with tacos and all the fixings, and I have several recipes to share with you from the big day. Here's the first and most important: her first birthday cake, errr, cupcake. And as you can see by the above photo, Caroline loved her cupcake! In fact, she loved it so much, that she was too busy stuffing her face to smile at us for the photos. :)

Since strawberries are just gorgeous right now in the stores, this choice for a cake came naturally. The strawberry-flavored yellow cupcakes are studded with chunks of fresh strawberries, and the pièce de résistance is the Strawberry Frosting mounded on top. It literally tastes like strawberry ice cream. So creamy!

Strawberry Cupcakes
Source: Adapted from Eat Good 4 Life

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
1-1/2 cup diced strawberries
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup rice milk
2 tsp. strawberry extract
Strawberry Frosting, recipe below
Fresh strawberries, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with 18 cupcake liners. Lightly spritz liners with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, beat oil, egg and sugar with a handmixer. Once thoroughly combined, add in rice milk. In a small bowl, carefully whisk together flour, baking powder and baking soda. Mix carefully into wet mixture, until smooth. Fold in the strawberries.

Divide batter between cupcake liners. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and tester comes out clean. Remove inmediately from the pan after baking and let cool completely on a wire rack. Top with frosting and garnish with fresh strawberries.

Strawberry Frosting
3-5 fresh strawberries
1 tbsp. water
1/2 cup MSPI-friendly margarine, room temperature
1/2 cup shortening
4 cups powdered sugar, plus more as needed
1 tsp. strawberry extract
Red food coloring, optional

Place strawberries and water in a blender, pulse until berries are pureed. Add more water, if needed.

In a mixing bowl, beat margarine and shortening until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Add in powdered sugar, extract, a few drops of red food coloring and half of the strawberry mixture. Beat until light and fluffy, about three or four minutes, adding more strawberries or powdered sugar, as needed, to get the right consistency.

Tip: The amount of strawberries needed for the frosting really depends on the size of the berries. If you have any puree leftover, you can make Strawberry Lemonade. Don't worry, the recipe is coming!