Three-Layer “ChiQuiAvo” (Chicken, Quinoa, & Avocado) Fajitas

Three-Layer “ChiQuiAvo” Fajitas

Ingredients
Chicken Breast
Onion
Bell Pepper
Jalapeno
Salsa (recommend Medium)
Black Beans
Quinoa
Avocado
Tomato
Lime
Soft Tortilla Shells (recommend whole wheat)
Herbs/Seasonings (Cilantro, Oregano, Cumin, Chili Powder, Salt)
Hot Sauce (recommend Frank’s or Texas Pete’s)

Directions
There are three main layers/parts to this, each customizable to your tastebuds (and mood):

  1. Chicken, Onions & Peppers – Cook full chicken breasts with chopped onions and peppers, herbs/seasonings, and some salsa (for other flavorful liquid) in crock pot on low for 6-8 hours. When ready, drain excess moisture (leaving some) from crock pot, shred chicken, and add additional herbs/seasonings to taste. Let sit in crock pot on warm.
  2. Quinoa & Black Beans – Cook separately, then combine (or leave separately). Corn can be added too if desired.
  3. Avocado, Tomato, Onion, & Lime – Chunk, chop, squeeze, and mix. Ideally, this should sit covered in fridge for 30 min before use.

Assemble/layer the above across a soft tortilla shell, garnish with fresh cilantro (optional), squeeze some lime, dash some hot sauce, and devour multiple. Chase with a good nap 🙂

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Chococado Mousse

Chococado (Chocolate + Avocado) Mousse

Original Link: http://bit.ly/tFq7q0

Ingredients:
4 ripe avocados
½ to ¾ cup raw agave nectar (more or less for desired taste)
½ to ¾ cup raw cacao powder
3 Tbs pure vanilla extract
2 Tbs raw coconut oil
½ cup unsweetened coconut milk, almond milk or water (more or less for desired consistency)

Directions:
Mix all ingredients except the milk or water in a blender or food processor until smooth.  Gradually add in the coconut or almond milk to obtain the consistency you desire.  Chill for one hour.  Serve in cups and garnish with mint or fresh berries. Serves 4.

Crema de Calabacín (Zucchini Soup)

Crema de Calabacín (Zucchini Soup)
By: Kevin & Kayla
Difficulty: Easy
Prep/Cook Time: 30-40 Min

It’s an authentic Spanish soup with fresh, summery flavor.

Ingredients
Zucchini
Potatoes (baking / all-purpose)
Onion (vidalia/sweet)
Corn (canned or cooked/grilled and cut off a cob)
Cream (light / reduced fat)
Butter (SmartBalance)
Black Pepper
Salt

Directions

  1. Melt butter in the bottom of a large pan and saute the zucchini and chopped/diced onion (med to med-high heat). Add salt & pepper as necessary.
  2. Peel, chop/cube, and boil the potatoes. Drain when done, saving some of the hot water.
  3. When the zucchini/onion is done, add most of it to a food processor with some of the cream (we had to do this in two batches due to the size of our food processor). Puree the mixture, slowly adding the cream to reach a soupy consistency. Add olive oil too if desired.
  4. Add the zucchini/onion puree, potatoes, and corn to a pan on low heat. Add salt and pepper to taste and if necessary, stir in some of the extra potato water to reach a desired consistency.
  5. Simmer and stir on low heat for at least 10 minutes or until the smell is too good to wait any longer (we tasted it several times).

Additional Notes

  • Less is more. We kept the seasoning to a minimum – the true flavor of the pureed zucchini and onion is perfect as is.
  • We saved some of the sauteed onion to add directly to the soup during the last step to add a bit more texture.
  • We tried a few bites with shredded sharp cheddar cheese on top and it was very good.
  • We paired ours with a salad of green leaf lettuce and fresh vegetables, washed down with some wine although some sangria blanca would probably be best!

World’s Greatest Potato Salad

World’s Greatest Potato Salad
By:
Kevin & Kayla
Difficulty:
Easy
Est Time:
30-40 Min

Ingredients
Red-Skin Potatoes
Scallions (Green Onions)
Cheddar Cheese
Egg (Hard Boiled)
Mayonnaise
Rice Vinegar
Spicy Mustard
Frank’s Red Hot Sauce (any hot sauce will do)
Garlic Powder
Mustard Seed
Sugar
Cumin
Paprika
Salt
Black Pepper

Directions
Boil the potatoes until a fork can go through them with relative ease. If you want to save time, microwave them. Boil the eggs until they are done. Make sure you put the eggs in the cold water before it boils so they don’t crack. They should take about 12-14 minutes once the water starts boiling. Chop the scallions and throw them in a big bowl. Add the spices and liquids. When the potatoes are done, let them cool in the fridge/freezer for 5-10 minutes before adding them to the bowl (make sure you keep the skins on). Add the mayo, cheddar cheese, and crumble the hard boiled egg. Chop and chunk the potatoes to the desired consistency/size. Mix well (but not too well that it becomes mush) and chill until it is fully cool (although some like it warm/hot – nothing wrong with that).

Salmon, Avocado, and Cucumber Makizushi (Sushi Roll)

Finally did it. I’ve had this on my list of annual things to do since 2008: learn how to make sushi. Toughest part was finding a bamboo mat! For our sushi roll, we looked at MakeMySushi.com (classic roll recipe) and used our own desired filling (salmon, avocado, and cucumber). Rather than rewrite all the instructions, I’ll provide some of our own hints:

  • Drink sake. It’s really really good. We had ours chilled.
  • Let the sticky rice cool before rubbing it on the nori.
  • Using the bamboo mat, roll it really tight while making sure the filling doesn’t fly out the ends.
  • Wipe (with paper towel) and wet (with hot water) your knife after every cut (or every few cuts).
  • Be creative with the filling. We started with a simple combo but after two rolls, realized we were pros and graduated to a philly spiced roll (added cream cheese and chili powder).
  • Make some extra and take it to work. That was a really good lunch on Monday…

That’s about it. It was pretty damn easy looking back, so give it a go!

Blueberry Banana Applesauce Muffins with Brown Sugar Cinnamon Streusel

Difficulty: Easy
Prep Time: 15 min
Bake Time: 18-24 min

Ingredients – Muffins
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 mashed banana
2 Tbsp applesauce

Ingredients – Streusel (Crumb Topping)
1/2 cup white or brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners.
2. Combine and mix dry ingredients. Add liquid ingredients (but not the fruit). Add the applesauce and mashed banana. Fold in the blueberries.
3. Separately, mix the ingredients for the streusel with a fork.
4. Fill muffin cups right to the top and sprinkle with crumb topping mixture.
5. Bake muffins for 18 to 24 minutes in the preheated oven, or until done. Don’t overcook, realizing the muffins will continue to cook a bit once removed from the oven.

Six Sigma, Switching Spices, and Embracing the Slight Deviations in Life

Although in many aspects of life we must minimize variation to obtain desirable outcomes, it’s when we embrace the slight deviations from normalcy that we obtain leverage, advancement, and enrichment.

Six Sigma

Six Sigma, developed by Motorola in 1981, is a “rigorous and disciplined methodology that uses data and statistical analysis to measure and improve a company’s operational performance by identifying and eliminating defects.” In other words, it’s a business management strategy that seeks to minimize variation in operational processes to obtain desirable results for that business/industry.

For manufacturing, production, risk management, supply chain management, accounting, customer service, and many other traditional business functions, minimizing variation is critical for ensuring sustainability, accountability, and efficiency. If the outputs of these functions deviated from what was to be expected, well, it could be expected that the people, the business, and the industry could all be severely impacted at some level.

But in order to spur innovation, create new channels for business, and adapt to markets and mediums that are constantly in flux, these businesses must foster and embrace the slight deviations from what is traditional or expected. There are incredible resources available to allow for these deviations to be leveraged without enormous risk to the bottom line, public image, or financial outlook:

  • The internet is an amazingly efficient platform to test new strategies, engage with the public, and collaborate with the universe.
  • Statistical methods supply new insight to what may have been and what might be, should this or that occur, with one thing or another considered.
  • Social networks can be easily tapped and leveraged for business insight. More is understood about behavioral patterns and social networks than ever before, allowing more direct correlation of business decisions to societal impact.

Business functions, organizations, and entire industries can be bettered by embracing and running with such deviations, even if the short-term prospect could be unknown and questionable. Balancing normalcy with cultured variations is a mixed business strategy that provides leverage within that market, advances industry, and enriches society.

Switching Spices

Let’s move from biz to grub. Think of cooking as a math problem. Ingredients are your variables/inputs, methods are your coefficients/operators, and your dish is the output. Given the huge number of ingredients and spices, cooking and plating techniques, and methods of consumption, the range of outputs is somewhere around or above infinity. But given that our options are so vast, it’s amazing how much the output might change if just one of our inputs is changed.

The dish is our dynamical system. Sometimes all it takes is turning up the temperature, or maybe adding more juice, or switching a spice, and the dish becomes entirely new. This is math and food in bed together – the application of chaos theory to culinary experience – making slight deviations from recipes and “comfort-zone” cooking to find new dishes worth trying, sharing, and bragging about.

As much as cooking is an experience, it’s also an experiment. There may be structure – in terms of baking methods and recipe books and kitchen etiquette – but in reality, the door is wide open. Ingredients are for the using, and recipes are for abusing. The best dishes are the unexpected ones, the ones that deviated from expectation, the ones that turned from trial and error to don’t-want-to-share. The mistakes are worth making, for it’s the hundreds of bad pasta dishes that lead to the thousands of great ones. Without embracing the variation in cooking, well, we mind as well hook up to the same gas pump each day.

And lastly, if the world of cooking was its own planet, every inch of it would be covered with a different species, color, scent, appearance, and shape. There is an infinite number of combinations of ingredients, quantities, temperatures, styles, and dishes to consume. Sometimes just switching one spice with another or stirring a little less makes all the difference in making your palate happy and opening a world of new potential dishes. Embracing slight variations in cooking will create new kitchen opportunities, expand your breadth of culinary knowledge and experience, and enrich your palate with a vast array of potential flavors.

Adaptive Normality

So what would our world look like if everything was constantly normal? Would we even have a concept of normality? With no variation from what has been done previously, we would essentially cease to learn, experiment, discover, and grow as a society and civilization.

What makes individuals unique makes many individuals stronger.

Our characteristics give us dimension. Our characteristics – from eye colors to expressions to birthmarks – give us each an identity that we own while making our society as a whole much stronger, multi-dimensional, and poised to grow.

Our choices give us direction. Our choices – from picking a college to financial spending habits to lending a hand – fuel and steer us down towards success and happiness, down roads that sometimes seem endless, foggy, and even non-existent.

Realizing that much good in our lives is based on slight deviations from normality, we must continue to pursue opportunities away from the norm. We must adapt our conceptualization of normality from a straight line to one that constantly moves and includes the variation in life. Our threshold for risk must include these slight deviations so we make them a part of our everyday life. Pushing the envelope in multiple ways brings advancement and enrichment. Divergent thinking, trying new dishes, and taking roads less traveled are all small deviations worth embracing. Although it’s normalcy that might keep us standing, its variation that moves us forward.