Mango & Tomato Recipe Contest Winners

My blog turned 2 years old in May! Hopefully, this is not the time of terrible two's! To celebrate,  I decided to host a recipe contest and ask my readers to submit recipes that contain both mangoes and tomatoes! I was very excited to receive a total of eleven submissions.

The runner-ups:
Cucumber and Couscous-stuffed Tomatoes with Mango Mint Salsa by Kaoru from Never Turn Down a Cupcake
Why I like this submission: 1) This is a dish you can make after you get home from work without slaving for hours 2) This dish screams summer because it is perfect for our 90+ degree weather 3) The final result is so colorful, hopefully even the pickiest eaters will give it a try!

photo by Kaoru

Mango Jalapeno Pizza by Lori from Fake Food Free
Why I like this submission: 1) Love the idea of adding sweet ingredients to your pizza (In the past, I've made a plum & gorgonzola pizza) 2) Lori used champagne mangoes: some of my favorites! 3) The combination of sweet mango and pickled jalapenos sounds like it would definitely hit the spot!

photo by Lori

Winner of 25 Disposable, Biodegradable, Compostable and Sturdy Palm Plates from Marx Foods:

Mango Bloody Mary, Spicy & Sweet Fish Fajitas and Tomato Petit Fours with Mango Glaze by Nicole from Discojing
Why I like this submission: 1) Nicole created not 1, but 3 dishes--obviously it's not about quantity, but quality, but her entire meal has mango & tomato components 2) all of the dishes sound relatively healthy and would not be too far from anyone's comfort zone 3) The photo collage is great!

photo by Nicole

The winner of the main prize ($25 gift card to Whole Foods & $25 gift card to Sur La Table):
Vanilla-Seared Scallops with Mango, Cherries and Tomato by Darienne from Cook. Play. Explore.
Why I liked this submission: 1) it's absolutely gorgeous! 2) it uses in-season cherries and tomatoes 3) the ingredient list is short and directions are uncomplicated 4) I could absolutely see myself cooking this!

photo by Darienne

Thank you to everyone else who participated!

Curried Adzuki Beans with Mango and Spinach by Valerie from City Life Eats
Sues Sassy Salas with mangoes, avocados, tomatoes and jalapenos (a non blogger recipe)
Greek-Style Tomato Fritters with Mango "Tzatziki" by Natasha from 5 Star Foodie
Tomato Flan with Mango Caramel by Norma from Platanos, Mangoes and Me!
Tomato and Mango Celebration, a Coulis for Shrimp by Anna from Cook. Play. Explore.
Tomato and Mango Salsa by Jenn from Jenn Cuisine
Mango Raita by Dawn (a non blogger): this recipe uses a green mango!
Flank Steak for Wraps or Salads by Yvonne from Cook. Play. Explore.

Those who won, please email me your addresses! Congratulations!


Blueberry picking with Mary and Jenna

A while ago, Mary of Arugula Files promised to take me blueberry picking. Why? Because she's awesome like thatm, and because she has a car (and I don't). This past Saturday, she picked me up at 8 am (super early for me!), and after picking up Jenna of Modern Domestic, we headed out to pick blueberries at Butler's Orchard.

It was an insanely hot and steamy day. Still, there were quite a few families at the farm. We waited our turn before hopping on a little "train" that drove us to the blueberry fields.

Did you know you can't just find a blueberry bush and start picking? We had to ask teenage boys in charge where we could pick. At one point I started picking and some woman told me "This is my bush." Get a grip, lady, there are plenty of blueberries to go around.

Here is someone else's bucket half full with blueberries.

It was interesting to see the progression in color from green to the most beautiful blue. No wonder these are called blueberries ;) The ones at my grocery store, however, mostly look black.

In the midst of picking blueberries and trying not to sweat too much, which was impossible, I happily snapped photos of the pretty berries with my new lens (Tamron 18-270mm). I especially like this shot below because the berries almost look like grapes!

And here is the proof that I was actually there! Thanks to Mary for the photo.

I managed to pick 7 pounds of berries and paid nearly $20 for them. We had so much fun! Stay tuned for a few recipes I'll be posting using these berries.


Arugula, Avocado, Feta & Pickled Onion Salad

Earlier this week I posted a recipe for pickled onions. What did I do with them you wonder? Well, wonder no more!

Here's a quick "recipe" for Arugula, Avocado, Feta & Pickled Onion Salad.

The most important thing about this salad is to very carefully wash the arugula, or otherwise you'll be eating sand. What I do is dunk arugula in a big bowl filled with water. Carefully remove the leaves, drain the water, rinse the bowl (notice all the sand!) and repeat the process several times. If you are super environmentally aware, keep the water and use it to water your plants.

You can mix all of the ingredients in a bowl, or make a layered salad: it photographs much nicer. And looks do matter in my book.

Layer arugula leaves, scatter feta, nicely arrange avocado slices and then pile on the pickled onions. If you want, drizzle the salad with olive oil, but I honestly was fine with the way it was.

The creamy avocado offset the slightly bitter taste of arugula, and the salty feta and vinegary onions brightened up this dish.

And of course this post would not be complete withouth a shout out to Mary who writes Arugula Files :)


How to pickle onions

Back in January, I wrote about pickling watermelon radishes. That post got quite a few comments as many of you did not realize how simple it is to pickle vegetables.

Then a few weeks ago I was watching Bobby Flay's Throwdown where he made a hot dog topped with avocado, pickled onions, and queso fresco. I thought it was an awesome idea, but did not do anything about it.

Fast forward to last week, when Mary of The Arugula Files posted a recipe for pickling onions. That did it! I had to make pickled onions.

My recipe varies from Mary's, but that's the beauty of cooking: you can pretty much use your imagination and try out a combination of different ingredients.

1/2 red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
10 coriander seeds
10 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
enough black currant vinegar to cover (this is the vinegar I had left from freelancing for Robyn Webb) {You can use any other vinegar you have on hand.}

1. Add onions and spices to a clean glass jar. Top with vinegar. Tightly close the lid. Shake the jar. Set in your refrigerator.
2. Wait 24 hours.
3. Open the jar and enjoy these pickled onions!

Stay tuned because I'll be posting at least one recipe that uses these pickled red onions. In the mean time, feel free to add them to salads, on top of fish or chicken, eat them with burgers or on top of hotdogs, or just put them out as a snack with nuts and olives.

What have you pickled lately?


Everything but a kitchen sink omelet

I'm so impressionable. Is that a word? Last night I was watching one of Bobby Flay's Throwdown shows: he was making omelets. That's why when I woke up today after a night of dancing, I decided to make an omelet. This would have to be a pretty filling omelet since it was already 11 am: brunch anyone?

Why is this an "Everything but a kitchen sink omelet?" Because you can put anything into it! I used the following ingredients:

red potato
red pepper
black cured olives
eggs (of course!)
cheddar cheese

All you have to do is cube your vegetables. Check out the mini dice I was able to get: this would allow the vegetables to cook faster.

Here's what you do:
1) Heat a bit of oil in a pan. Add potatoes and cook for about 5 minutes. Then add peppers and shallots, season with salt and pepper and cook for about 5 more minutes, or until all the vegetables are cooked through and browned. Add olives and set aside.

2. Whisk your eggs with a bit of salt. In another pan, heat a bit of oil. Add the eggs and swirl them a bit. Make sure your heat is pretty low: you don't want much color.

3. Once the bottom of the omelet is set, flip it! Ok, I did not technically flip my omelet. I slid it on a flat plate and then carefully flipped it back into the pan.

4. Cook the omelet for a few minutes, then add your filling to one half of the omelet. Top with cheese and basil and fold.

5. You are ready to eat! I could have left the omelet on the stove for a bit longer to make sure the cheese melted more, but it was still good.

Breakfast is ready!

What are your favorite ingredients to add to an omelet?

oh, and HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!!! Here's my dad with me (on the left) and Anna.


Mission: My first roasted chicken

I've known Robyn Webb for at least 5 years. Really, has it been that long!? I met her when I started assisting cooking classes at Sur La Table. Eventually I became her recipe tester for the work she does for cooking magazines and also tested recipes for her latest two cookbooks. As of January, I became Robyn's Editor/Photographer/Cook for her blog: Fabulous Food Finds.

What does that entail? It's almost exactly the same as working on Mango & Tomato, but I get paid for it! Each week, Robyn drops by my apartment with two recipes and 3 products she wants to feature on her blog. I then do the grocery shopping, cooking, take photos, edit the photos, edit Robyn's write ups and publish them on her blog.
Through this process I learn about ingredients and techniques that I might be unfamiliar with, get to keep adorable kitchen tools, and get to face my kitchen fears.

One of those fears is roasting a whole chicken. Yes, you've heard it right: I have a fear of roasting a chicken (although I did roast an entire turkey a few years ago when testing Robyn's Thanksgiving recipes). I get squeamish about handling things with skin, bones, and innards. That just grosses me out. My mom has been disappointed in me for a long time because I only buy skinless boneless breasts. Sorry: that's what I like. I'm actually not a fan of dark meat (although I can sometimes eat it cold, but not hot).

So when Robyn decided to show y'all how make a roasted chicken, I was a bit freaked out.

Not only did I have to touch the skin, wash the chicken and pat it dry, but I also had to reach in and pull out the random body parts stuck inside the chicken's cavity. I wish you could see my face as I'm typing this!

The "stuffing" was the easy part. Apples, onions, garlic cloves mixed with rosemary and thyme. Of course you can also go with lemons and other herbs.

I then used the pretty pink silicone ties, that I now own because Robyn featured them on her blog, to tie the legs and the wings together. Talk about recycling: no need to use twine. And who doesn't love pink?

You first roast the chicken breast side up, then turn it upside down to finish the roasting process.

Perhaps my oven wasn't clean enough, but my entire studio apartment started filling up with smoke. And of course I could not open my windows because it was 90 degrees outside. So I just prayed that the fire alarm would not go off. My prayers weren't answered. The fire alarm went off and even after getting a chair and attempting to remove the battery, the sound was blaring louder and louder.

My first concern was that I will set off my entire apartment complex's fire alarm system. My second concern was that if the fire fighters would arrive {and if some of them happened to be cute (as if!)}, I would be unprepared: no makeup, hair a mess, and let's not even talk about what I was wearing.

Luckily, after opening my front door and waving a kitchen towel back and forth, the fire alarm finally shut up!

And minutes later, I took out my roasted chicken out of the oven.

Before you say anything, YES, I realize that I took the picture upside down. Sorry.

The breast meat was juicy, the skin was golden, and my apartment smelled divine. The entire process wasn't as gross as I thought it would be (once I removed the chicken innards). Will I do this again though? Very unlikely. The chicken thighs went un-eaten, and I would rather spend 2 hours (Note: including prep, etc. The chicken wasn't in the oven for 2 hours! This is to clarify after I received a comment from a reader) doing something else than roasting an entire bird. I'm sure 90% of you would disagree with me though.

This experience reminded me of my many Daring Cooks and Daring Bakers posts: I was happy to try out those recipes once, but unless it's flour-less chocolate cake, I'm not doing them again.

Questions for you:
1) When you are roasting a chicken, what flavoring ingredients do you use?
2) What should I attempt to conquer next in my kitchen?


Stuffed Cabbage

It's incredibly hot in DC area, which makes me very reluctant to cook. Alas, unlike some of my friends who are satisfied with skipping dinner or having a bowl of cereal, I like real food. But in the summer it's not as enticing to make a big pot of soup or chili or bake a batch of lasagna that will last for days. And so, I'm usually left with making omelets, cold pasta salads or sandwiches.

Last weekend, however, I had craving for some comfort food, and an omelet would not cut it. For some reason, I decided to make stuffed cabbage. I have never made stuffed cabbage in my entire life! Instead, I make a lazy version of it: saute carrots, onions and garlic. Add ground beef. Add spices and cooked rice. Add shredded cabbage and cook till it's tender. Serve with sour cream.

Here's my version of Stuffed Cabbage: because I only had brown rice and did not want to use it, I decided to add Israeli cous cous. This recipe is made with ground beef, but  you can use ground chicken, turkey, pork, etc.

1 head of cabbage, core removed
2 teaspoons oil
4 carrots, peeled, diced
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound ground beef
2/3 cups Israeli cous cous
14.5 ounce fire roasted tomatoes with juices + same amount of liquid retained from cooking cabbage
1 bay leaf

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Carefully put the head of cabbage into the pot and make sure the water completely covers it. Cook the cabbage for about 5 minutes. Carefully remove the cabbage and let it cool. Once it's cooled, separate the leaves. Don't throw away the water! You'll need about 2 cups of it for this recipe and can use the rest to make soup.

2. Add oil to a heated pan, add carrots, onions, garlic and spices and saute till softened.

2. Once the carrot/onion/garlic/spices mixture is cooled, add it to a bowl with ground beef and cous cous. Mix.

3. Top each cabbage leaf with a few tablespoons of the mixture and roll the leaf like a burrito.

4. In a large pot bring to a simmer fire roasted tomatoes, 1 can of retained cabbage water and a bay leaf. Carefully add your stuffed cabbage, bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover and cook for 40 minutes.

5. Serve stuffed cabbage with yogurt or sour cream. You can also add cheese, salsa, or even cubed avocados.

This dish is great as leftovers, but I'm not sure if you could freeze it.

Please don't forget that you have 2 more weeks to enter my recipe contest for a chance to win $50 in gift cards. Get cooking!


Tomato, Mozzarella, Garlic Scape Pesto Sandwich

Almost exactly a year ago, I made a Panzanella salad from tomatoes, bread basil and mozzarella. Last weekend, amidst cooking and photographing recipes for Robyn Webb, I needed a quick lunch and decided to make a sandwich from the same ingredients you find in a panzanella salad.

Alas, I had no basil. What I did have, however, was leftover garlic scape pesto.

This is definitely not a recipe, but just an idea.

Toast a few slices of bread, spread each slice with garlic scape pesto, place slices of fresh tomatoes and mozzarella in-between the bread slices.

This was a great summery sandwich that took just a few minutes to prepare. You can make multiple variations: use roasted peppers instead of tomatoes, use any other type of cheese, use regular pesto instead of garlic scapes.