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The Circle B Kitchen has been blogging since September, 2009.  We have loads of recipes and thoughts on food to share in the coming weeks and months, so come back and check in often!  We love hearing from you and hope you'll leave a comment or shoot an email our way.  Whether you have questions about a recipe or the site in general, please let us know...    Contact me at      pberry@circle-B-kitchen.com


Find a Circle B Kitchen Recipe 

Some of Our Favorite Summertime Things!

         3- Berry Crumble

       Peach Caprese Salad

        Summer Tomato Tart

     Fresh Sour Cherry Cobbler

Arugula, Peach and Blue Cheese Salad

Chocolate Chip Strawberry Shortcake

         Paella on the Grill!

     Grilled Nacho Burger

Fresh Corn and Black Bean Salsa

     Fresh Peach Pudding Cake

   Summer White Bean Salad

 

 

     Swordfish Provencal

Bacon-Guacamole Salmon Burger


      Circle B BBQ'd Chicken

And just in case you were wondering...

       

 

Our oldest daughter, Erin, has been riding, training and showing horses since she was a teenager.  She graduated from Colorado St. University with a degree in Equine Science and is now Financial and Administrative Manager for HETRA (Heartland Equine Therapeutic Riding Association), which provides therapy through horseback riding for children and adults with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, brain tumors, head injuries, blindness, autism, and strokes.  For more information or to donate to this amazing cause, please visit http://www.hetra.org/ .

 

 

Friday
Aug282015

Alarmingly Delicious Margaritas!

There are several things that I particularly love about summer, not the least of which is when it is over.  But when summer is at its most absurdly ridiculous levels of heat and humidity, we here at the Circle B Kitchen know how to console ourselves and keep our cool.   All at the same time. 

Now, sangria works really well for this, but we’ve already talked about that here, so today we’ll explore another surefire way to get yourself through the dog days of summer and that’s with our mucho tasty and very cooling margaritas.  That’s plural because I have yet to see anyone drink just one of these.  


(Any Mexican restuarant that has chairs this cute most likely will have good margaritas)

The inspiration for these margaritas (as if you need one) comes from a little road trip that The Husband and I took last month.  On our last night on the road we stayed in Yankton, South Dakota (no, really) and ate dinner at this totally awesome little Mexican restaurant near our hotel. 

(I'm just saying...)

Of course, the first thing we did was order margaritas and they came in these groovy margarita glasses that totally enhanced our drinking enjoyment. 

But even without the nifty cactus glasses, these were some totally excellent margaritas; the cute glasses were just a bonus.  The chicken tostadas were also outstanding, and then we left our credit card there which we didn’t realize until a couple of days later, but the nice folks at El Tapatio mailed it out to us, no problemo.  We like them. 

As soon as I got home, I did a little online shopping and got us some of those cool cactus glasses, which has also enhanced our margarita enjoyment at home, and now it’s time to share our amazing margarita recipe with you.  Only it’s not our recipe.  Our margarita recipe comes from a very reputable source, namely Rick Bayless, who knows a thing or two about margaritas.  This will become self evident at the frst sip.  

Most of you are probably already experienced in the actual making of the margarita, but in spite of that, I will still run through the basics before sharing the recipe for this extraordinarily delicious beverage, beginning with the fact that I think blended margaritas might be a sacrilege, so ours will be on the rocks, which is just a fancy way of saying with ice cubes and not a slushy. 

Margaritas are one of those beverages that require a little prep work on your glass before you can actually enjoy your drink.  Have you noticed that I am completely avoiding calling this a cocktail?  I’m not a big fan of that word or the entire cocktail concept.  To me, “cocktails” sounds way too fifties/sixties.  Mad Men notwithstanding, it sounds  like something that my parents’ and grandparents’ generation drank (even though my parents and/or grandparents never would have), and it conjures up images of women in pearls and cocktail dresses and all manner of pretentiousness that I cannot relate to.  It makes me want to drink a beer.  No cocktail parties for me, but if it’s happy hour, I’m in!  This is just semantics, but in life, as in drinking, semantics can be very important. 

Back to our margarita glasses… firstly we’ll be wanting to moisten the rim of our glasses with a slice of lime, which will make the next step more effective. 

The next step is to dip our glass into some coarse salt, which will stick because we have lime juice on the rim.  Special margarita salt is a good way to pay extra for something that’s probably just like kosher salt that you already have in your cupboard. 

Once you have your glass rimmed in salt, you can add some ice cubes to your glass and then carefully pour in your margarita.  You will find it difficult to add salt to the rim of the glass after you pour in the margarita, so careful attention to the order of application is important here.

So grab some chips or quesadillas or something equivalently munchable.  Sip, munch, repeat.  Lots of times.  And if you’ve got the munching thing down, but are in need of a spectacular margarita to go with, here’s the recipe…

Alarmingly Delicious Margaritas!

Click here for a printable recipe

This is the margarita that they serve at Rick Bayless' restaurants, Topolobampo, Frontera Grill and others.  It's one of the best margaritas I've ever had and it's the one we make here with astonishing frequency at the Circle B Kitchen.  The only change I made from the original is that it calls for 6 tablespoons of sugar, which I don't think is quite enough.  I don't like my margaritas real sweet, but if you make them 6 heaping tablespoons, it comes out perfect.

 
Makes about 4 margaritas
 
3/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 3 or 4 large limes)
6 tablespoons sugar (make those heaping tablespoons)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons blanco tequila
1/4 cup Gran Torres orange liqueur (I use triple sec, but Cointreau is also awesome)
lime wedges
coarse salt for dipping
ice cubes

Combine the lime juice, sugar and 1 cup of water in a large jar or shakeable container.  Cover and refrigerate for an hour, but no longer than 24 hours.

When ready to serve, add the tequila and orange liqueur to the lime mixture and shake to fully combine.  (The sugar has a tendency to settle to the bottom, so be sure to shake right before pouring).

Rub the rims of your margarita glasses with a slice of lime and then dip each glass in a dish of coarse salt. Add some ice to each of the glasses, shake the margarita mixture well and then pour into the glasses.  Place a lime wedge on the rim of each glass, if desired and enjoy!
Saturday
Aug222015

Circle B Kitchen Macaroni Salad

 

There’s still plenty of grilling time left on the calendar people.  Lots of tailgate parties, football parties, Labor Day BBQ’s, and actually some of the best outdoor weather is still ahead.  We’re heading into my favorite time of the year and to celebrate, I’m sharing with you one of my all-time favorite side dishes for BBQ’s, picnics, grill parties and to be honest, just one of my all-time favorite things to eat. 

I’ve always loved mac salad.  Always.  Enough so that even if it wasn’t all that good, I’d still eat it and be happy.  That may be a bit overstated, but you get the idea.  Mac salad and me are pretty tight.  

But then a very scary thing happened when I decided to get serious about my mac salad and developed this recipe that Cousin Katie now refers to as Crack Salad.  Yeah.  It’s sort of scary in that “I can’t stop myself and my fork is out of control and I can’t even remember if this is my third or fourth helping.”  That kind of scary.  But maybe that’s just me. 

Otherwise, this is a lovely, delightful and totally scrumptious macaroni salad without all of the heavy, tasteless mayo-laden drudgery of most store-bought ones.  It’s quite happy sitting next to your burger or grilled chicken and loves being toted along to work for some lunchtime deliciousness.  It’s actually quite agreeable to most any application on your plate, but don’t be fooled by its appealingly benign appearance...it's most definitely scary. Good.  Here’s the recipe…

Circle B Kitchen Mac Salad

Click here for a printable recipe

If you love macaroni salad, then I would suggest you consider long and hard before making this.  It’s totally addictive and there are times when my willpower just isn’t up to the task of moderating my intake.  One of the secrets to this particular mac salad is chopping everything really fine.  I chop the eggs in my food processor, but if you don’t have one, then just use a fork to get them mashed up as much as possible before adding them to the bowl.  I buy olives already chopped in the can, but if you have larger ones, a few pulses in the food processor will do.  There are chopped radishes in the blog post photo, and I would say they’re totally optional.  If you like a little crunch, they’re a nice option or some chopped celery will do as well, but I don't usually add them. 

2 cups elbow macaroni (approximately 1/2 lb)
1/3 cup chopped black olives
1 large green onion, chopped (about ¼ cup)
½ to 1 cup mayo
Splash of red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Morton’s Seasonings (or Circle B seasoning salt)
2-3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped pretty fine in the food processor
1 teaspoon salt
Chopped radishes or celery if you’d like a little crunch, but totally optional

Instructions:
Cook the macaroni, drain and rinse.  

Mix the mayo, mustard, seasoned salt and vinegar together and combine with the macaroni.  Then add the remaining ingredients and taste for salt and pepper.  Be sure to add enough salt.  I often end up adding a little more right before serving.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Click here to ask a question or leave a comment

Saturday
Aug152015

Blackberry (Mulberry) Crumble Bars

This weekend is totally getting away from me... three parties to cook for, which is a dang awesome problem to be "complaining" about.  Of course it's all fun - last night was a giant Mexican feast that had me cooking just about everything Mexican under the sun; this morning was a pancake breakfast out at the BBQ; tonight is a pool party and BBQ at my daughter's (I'm just bringing side dishes); and tomorrow is a cooking party with my two oldest grandkids (13 and 17) and tomorrow night we'll serve our creations (lasagna, focaccia, caesar salad and cheesecake) to their parents.

Like I said it's all amazingly fun, but nevertheless, I just emptied my dishwasher for the 3rd time today and it's only 2 p.m.  So you get the idea... I'm getting to do all of the things I love the most with my favorite people on the planet, but the pace is off the charts busy, which is my ever so sideways way of saying, that this week's post will be a bit short.

I just have two words for you... crumble bars.  Made em last week for afternoon guests and fell madly in love and can't get them out of my head and am in desperate need of a minute to make them all over again.

They're beyond delicious, bordering on edgy addictive, and now that I think about it, I probably actually shouldn't make them again.  At least not for a little while.  Although they're so easy (and I do mean easy) to make that I might just throw them together when I'm not even looking and find myself once again in love and reaching for another when it is most inadvisable to be doing so.

Use any kind of jam you wish in these.  I used our wondrous mulberry jam, but blackberry jam would be ever so perfect.  Or raspberry.  Whatever.  Just get them made.  Here's the recipe...

Blackberry (Mulberry) Crumble Bars

Click here for a printable recipe

Makes 32 to 36 cookie bars

These crumble bars are very delicate and ever so incredibly delicious.  The crust is a bit crumbly, but that's what makes them so good.  Be sure to line your baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a little on the edges to pull it easily out of the pan.  But don't try taking these out of the pan until they cool completely, otherwise they may not hold together when cutting them.  And that would just be too sad.

For the crust:

1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and diced
1 large egg 

For the filling:
1 ½ to 2 cups of blackberry (or mulberry or raspberry) jam 

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a 9x13 pan and line it with parchment paper.

(I do the next step in a food processor.  It makes cutting in the butter so easy.  After I cut in the butter with a few pulses, I place the mixture in a bowl and add the egg and then proceed with the recipe.)

In a medium bowl, blend 1 cup of sugar, the baking powder, salt and flour.  Using a fork or pastry cutter, blend in the small pieces of butter and then add in the egg, blending everything well.  The dough will be crumbly.  Pat half of the dough into the prepared pan.

Spread the jam over the bottom crust and crumble the remaining half of the dough over the filling.

Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes or until the top is slightly brown.

Cool completely, then cut into bars and serve.

Click here to ask a question or leave a comment

Saturday
Aug082015

Homemade Orange Sherbet

Pardon me as I wax a bit nostalgic for a moment here, but for me, summertime in the ‘hood back in the 50’s and 60’s was just plain fun; the ‘hood being a middle class neighborhood in a suburb of L.A.  Our particular neighborhood was peopled with working class families with lots of post-war kids, and if you can even imagine it, not one electronic device other than our big ol’ radios and black and white TV’s.  Which meant that summer evenings were spent playing freeze tag and kick ball and waiting for the ice cream truck to make its way over to our street.  I’ve always been pretty up front about my age, but if this doesn’t make me sound old, I just don’t know what. 

But back then it was always a tough decision to have to choose between fudgsicles, popsicles, drumsticks, ice cream sandwiches, Eskimo Pies, and one of my personal favorites…the creamsicle or 50-50 bar, which was half vanilla ice cream and half orange sherbet.  I think I most often ended up with that 50-50 bar, and for years ever after, I’ve had an orange sherbet crush, made all the better if I can pair it up with some vanilla ice cream.  And which probably led to my total and complete addiction to the Orange Julius in high school. 

But here’s the thing… to me, orange sherbet just isn’t quite what it used to be.  It could be all the additives and artificial ingredients that get thrown into it nowadays, or it could just be a selective memory thing, or maybe it really was better back then.  Hard to say, but I decided it was high time I made some up just to see if I could replicate those sherbet flavors of my youth. 

But why isn’t it spelled sherbert?

I started with a recipe from my Cuisinart ice cream maker (very forgettable); moved on to one from Alton Brown (better, but still not quite there) and then landed on this one from Fine Cooking.  Score!!  Oh man, is this stuff good.  Super bright and orange-y, balanced with just the right amount of creaminess and the perfect sweet to tangy ratio, and in my humble opinion, maybe even better than my beloved childhood sherbet.  

We’re going to start with fresh oranges, which, of course, is what this sherbet is all about, although one time I swapped out a few of the fresh oranges for some fresh-squeezed, organic tangerine juice and it was amazing!! 

Then we’re going to zest up a few of those oranges and infuse this stuff with even more orangey-ness, which is what I think sends it right over the edge of sherbet mediocrity and into orange sherbet legend.  

Of course, you don’t have to dredge up some sappy childhood memories from the 50’s to get excited about orange sherbet.  It’s just pretty much one of those cold summertime treats that's ever so easy to love.  Here’s the recipe…

Homemade Orange Sherbet

Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe Courtesy Fine Cooking 

At the risk of setting your expectations impossibly high, I’m still going to say that this may be some of the best orange sherbet you’ll ever have the pleasure of meeting.  It’s bright and citrusy and creamy and sweet and tangy all at the same time and all of that is so perfectly balanced and just so good.  The only change I made to the recipe was to use half and half instead of cream.  We loved it, but if you’re game for using the cream, I can only imagine how even more creamy and wondrous it would be.  Please DO use fresh-squeezed orange juice.  From real, fresh oranges.  Mostly because of the fresh orange flavor, but also because you absolutely cannot skip the step where you steep the orange zest to make this even more awesomely orange.  Lovely stuff. 

10 medium navel oranges (about 5 lb.)
1 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup heavy cream (I used half and half) 

Finely grate enough zest from the oranges to yield 2 Tbs., and then squeeze the oranges to yield 3 cups juice. 

In a 2-quart saucepan, bring the zest, 1 cup of the juice, and the sugar to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Strain though a fine sieve into a medium bowl, pressing on the zest; discard the zest. 

Strain the remaining orange juice and the lemon juice into the bowl, and then whisk in the heavy cream. Refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours. 

Churn the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. Transfer the sherbet to an airtight container and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.

Click here to ask a question or leave a comment

Sunday
Aug022015

Shrimp Fried Rice

 

We’ve most definitely moved into the dog days of summer.  August is now upon us and any excuse to stay away from a hot stove or oven is gladly seized upon, so I suppose I should be inspiring you to make a nice cold salad for dinner or something befitting the heat and humidity of this day, but no.  Ha!  Ironically, we're going to stand over a very hot pan and stir up some trouble.  Fried rice trouble, which just happens to be ever so delicious.  But I don't want you to worry about all that heat.  I can even say with confidence that you could turn off your air conditioning and still make this shrimp fried rice without breaking a sweat.  I’m not saying that you should do that, because personally, I’m very partial to air conditioning, especially when I’m cooking, but it’s sort of my lame way of saying that the actual cooking time here is so minimal that yes, you can make fried rice in the blistering heat of August and be very happy you did.  

Perhaps a little confession time is in order here because I have to admit that I sometimes (sometimes!) shy away from some Asian recipes because they look long and involved and the ingredient list sometimes takes ½ hour to read and then I’m like “Nah, let’s just have burgers”.  I’m not proud of this because I love stir fries and all things Chinese noodles and rice bowls and such.  And I dearly love fried rice.

 So I took it upon myself to create a recipe that is neither long, involved nor labor intensive, and I have to say that in this I have failed miserably.  Well, maybe not miserably.  I mean there is a bit of chopping and dicing and such, and there are waaaaay more words in the recipe than I had hoped for, but this is the fried rice that I want to eat, and the recipe that will get me there, so there are words.  Maybe lots of them.

 

After much testing and tweaking and tasting, I have settled on a recipe that feels worthy of the Circle B Kitchen label.  I just hope you will forgive me for the wordiness, but there is so much to talk about when it comes to making good fried rice; I’ll just try and talk fast. 

Firstly, we must talk about the rice.  You can really use just about any rice you love and adore, but oddly enough, it must be cooked, cold and stale.  Well, the stale part is a bit of an exaggeration, but cold, leftover rice is what makes a good fried rice good.  If you get a hankering for fried rice and you have no leftovers in the fridge, I have given you a nifty shortcut in the recipe.  I often make a double batch when I’m making rice, just so I’ll have enough leftovers to make this.  My preferred rice is brown jasmine, but like I said, any rice will do. 

Secondly, one of the things I love about fried rice is those bits of egg that give a lovely little bite of texture.  Sometimes the egg is scrambled in the pan after the rice is added and sometimes the egg is scrambled first and then removed and added back in at the end. 

In one of my fried rice trials I had some leftover spinach frittata in the fridge and I thought why not just chop it up into the rice and that was such a good call.  It was dynamite!  So now I always make sort of a mini frittata (more like a pancake) with the egg and add green onions and spinach and then cut it up and add that to the rice at the end of cooking.  So good in there! 

Another thing that I discovered along the way is using white pepper.  I’ve always loved white pepper in sauces and with seafood, so it’s no surprise that it’s also awesome in fried rice.  I think white pepper has a little more heat than black pepper, but it’s a warm, subtle heat that just works in here. 

Since this is shrimp fried rice, we're adding shrimp to the rice (thank you, Captain Obvious), but you could just as easily add chicken, pork, or make it vegetarian by adding your favorite veggies.  And one last thing… as usual, it’s always best to have all of your ingredients chopped, measured and prepped before you even heat up your pan.  The actual cooking takes no more than about 10 minutes, so I promise… you won’t even break a sweat.  Here’s the recipe…

Shrimp Fried Rice

Click here for a printable recipe

There are as many ways to cook shrimp fried rice as there are people who love it, but there seem to be 2 constants among them all.  Firstly, you must use cold, cooked (preferably leftover) rice, and secondly, you must not overcook the shrimp.    I love the strips of cooked egg woven into the finished dish, but if you prefer to scramble an egg in the pan after the rice is added, that’s just fine too.  Or leave the egg out entirely.  Another personal preference is the addition of white pepper which I adore.  It’s a bit spicier than black pepper and adds a subtle warm heat that makes this fried rice pretty special stuff.  As for the rice, just about any rice is going to work here (as long as it’s cold from the fridge).  My rice of choice is brown jasmine or brown basmati.  I make up a batch the day before or a few days beforehand.  I’ve noted a little shortcut below if you don’t have any leftover rice.  And one more thing, I know this recipe looks long and perhaps a bit involved, but it really isn’t.  If you have all of your ingredients prepped and ready, this comes together in about 10- 15 minutes. 

Serves 3-4

For the shrimp:
12 ounces of medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
½ teaspoon cornstarch
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper 

For the egg:
3 large eggs, beaten
¼ cup thawed, squeeze-dried frozen spinach (about 2 ounces frozen)
¼ cup of chopped scallions 

For the rice:
*4 cups of cold, cooked rice (leftover rice is preferable)
2 tablespoons minced (or grated) ginger
1/2 teaspoon white pepper (or more or less depending on your heat preference)
1 cup finely diced carrots
½ cup of fresh or frozen peas (optional)
2 scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional) 

In a medium bowl, combine the shrimp with the cornstarch, salt and white pepper.  Toss to coat the shrimp as evenly as possible and set aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. 

Combine the soy sauce and sesame oil and set aside. 

Add the thawed spinach and ¼ cup scallions to the beaten egg, along with a little salt and pepper.  Heat your skillet or wok and add a teaspoon or two of peanut or vegetable oil.  Add the egg mixture and let it spread out to cover the bottom of the pan.  Let it sit for about 30 seconds to cook the bottom and then use a spatula to flip it over.  Cook another 5 or 10 seconds until cooked through and remove to a plate.  After it has cooled, cut it into strips and set aside.  You can make this the day before and refrigerate it until you're ready to cook. 

Drizzle a bit more oil into the hot pan and add the shrimp, cooking quickly, untouched, for about 30 seconds and then flip them over and cook for another minute or two until they are just barely cooked through.  Do not overcook them.  Remove them from the pan and set aside. 

Drizzle a bit more oil into the hot pan and add the ginger.  Cook for about 10 to 15 seconds or until very fragrant and then add the diced carrots and peas (if using).  Stir fry for a minute or so. 

Add a bit more oil if the pan seems dry and add the rice, the white pepper and most of the remaining scallions, reserving a few for serving.  Stir-fry for about 2-3 minutes until the rice is heated through. 

Pour the soy sauce around the edges of the pan and stir to combine with the rice.

Add the shrimp and the sliced egg back into the pan and stir to combine well and heat through. 

Remove from the heat and add the cilantro (if using).  Serve while still warm from the pan, sprinkled with the few remaining scallions. 

*If you don’t have any cold, leftover rice in your fridge, here’s a handy shortcut. You can cook the rice like you would pasta!  A few hours (or days) before you plan on making the fried rice, you can throw 1 ½ cups of rice into a pan with lots of water in it.  Add a little salt and bring it to a boil.  Once the water has come to a boil, reduce the heat, cover the pan and let it simmer for 20 minutes for brown rice.  White rice might only take 10 or 15 minutes. 

Drain the rice and spread it out on a smallish baking sheet or baking pan to cool and then place it in the fridge for at least 2 hours.  You want the rice to be cold and to dry out a bit.  That allows it to absorb the flavors in the pan and keeps the rice from becoming soggy or mushy.

 Click here to ask a question or leave a comment