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Friday, July 18, 2014

Finiqe, or Albanian Filled Cookies!

These cookies actually have a rather funny story.  Mark's mother let me bother her mom's Albanian cookbook.  It's pretty awesome and old, and the recipes call for exotic things like "2 pounds of lamb, preferably leg," "a 4 or 5 pound fowl," "kadaif," , "flour - the green box," , and spices you've never heard of.  Evelyn caught me flipping through it and taking pictures of tons of recipes to try out, so she just told me to take the book!  I hadn't gotten a chance to give any of them a try because of the house and the wedding and all the life changes someone could stuff into 2 months, but then all of a sudden it was the night before our school's volunteer appreciation breakfast and I had no idea what to bring.  I had only cooked in my new kitchen once, so I decided to make something rather than grab donuts in the morning, and somehow I thought to flip through the Albanian cookbook.  I found basically only one recipe that called for ingredients that I had; they were called finiqe, or Albanian filled cookies in English.  They seemed simple enough (I love when the recipe says "mix all ingredients together" to start off), and I was intrigued that the dough had orange juice in it.  They are stuffed with walnuts and raisins, and then dipped into a hot sugar syrup once they're cooled.  Intriguing, right?  And while I was a bit nervous to try a weird recipe like this from a cookbook I hadn't yet learned to trust, I figured this was a perfect situation to try them out: after all, what were the chances someone at the volunteer appreciation breakfast would have tried finiqe before and would know whether or not mine were terrible?

So of course at the breakfast the next morning, a woman grabbed one off the plate as Mark was standing there telling people about them.  She heard him, walked right over to him, and started speaking in Albanian!  Drat!  He immediately mumbled something about not speaking the language, and so she switched to English and asked if he had ever visited Albania.  No again!  By then, he was desperate to pawn this woman off on me, so he introduced us and I had to accept the fact that my dream of introducing people to my finiqe was dead, since this woman was a legit Albanian who had just come back from working in orphanages there.

Oh well!  The good news?  She said the cookies were great.  And so did lots of other people, to the point where I was handing out the recipe to my coworkers, and they were all gone by the end of the day when I went to pick up my platter.  I was actually kind of surprised they were so popular, because I thought they were super crumbly, but apparently that's acceptable!  So anyway if you are feeling rather exotic this weekend, go ahead and make yourself some finiqe.

By the way, guess what I'm doing in a week from today!?!?!?

Recipe:

finiqe, or Albanian filled cookies
from Albanian Cookbook by the Women's Guild of St. Mary's Albanian Orthodox Church in Worcester, MA, 1977
yields 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
2 cups oil
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts
for syrup:
2 cups sugar
1 cup water

Instructions:

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix all ingredients together except raisins and nuts.

2) Form dough into oval balls and place a few raisins and nuts in center and fold.

3) Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.  While cookies bake, make the syrup by boiling the water and sugar together for 15 minutes.

4) Dip cooled cookies into hot syrup and sprinkle with crushed walnuts.




Thursday, July 10, 2014

Roasted Vegetable Burritos with Black Beans and Rice

This was my first meal cooked in the new house!!!!  Yay!  I made it on a night when I knew Mark's parents were coming over.  I was very excited to be cooking in my beautiful new kitchen, feeding my very-soon-to-be in-laws, even if we didn't have a table.

The experience turned out to not be quite what I had expected.  We didn't have a garbage disposal.  For someone that grew up with one, it was a very difficult thing to suddenly find myself peeling carrots into the trash.  No matter how careful I was washing pans, I still had to scoop out mushy beans and rice from the drain.  Thanks to my wonderful cousin Pat, I now have a disposal, so this problem no longer exists :)

Back to the burritos - I happily roasted carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, and onion, and cooked up some rice.  I added tofu (shhhh, I didn't tell anyone that was in there), black beans, and cheese, and used my new Griddler to make the burritos stiff enough to hold in your hand.  I was pretty pumped to serve these to the Ajemians!

And then the door opened.  And the first thing I heard was, "Oh, is that cauliflower? And broccoli?  Ugh."  I later found out that Mark's parents don't eat cooked cauliflower or broccoli.  Or many other cooked vegetables (apparently raw is fine!)!  And they walked in with aluminum pans full of ribs.  Ha!  Those two crack me up.  So my dreams of sitting my future in-laws at the table on the couch with healthy vegetarian burritos disappeared.  I suppose now that I will be cooking for them rather than the opposite, I will need to learn their likes and dislikes.  After all, they've done that for me over the past 5 years; Ed always makes sure to have vegetarian foods and "meat without bones"

Anyway - Mark, my mother and I did eat these burritos, luckily, because they were really good!  I love anything with roasted vegetables, and the tofu was masked by the flavors of all the other things going on so I didn't even have to tell anyone it was in there ;)  Obviously there were lots of leftovers, and Mark and I ate them for lunch at work for the rest of the week.  When we got sick of burritos, we ate the filling on top of rice.  After about 4 days, he begged me to stop serving him burrito filling, but still, that meant 5 days of this stuff before he got sick of it.  That definitely says something!

The cool thing about this recipe is that you can make it ahead of time.  It gives instructions on how to refrigerate or freeze them, which will definitely come in handy.  It even tells you how to heat them up if they're still frozen.  One last note: you can swap out the fillings if you're like Ed and Evelyn and broccoli and cauliflower aren't your things!  Just aim for a cup and a half of filling per burrito, and you can roast whatever veggies you'd like.  Swap the tofu for chicken, if you're a carnivore, or some sort of cooked meat. Use white or brown rice.  Choose your favorite cheese.  See what I'm saying here?  The choice is yours.  Make these ahead of time, make them for dinner tonight, swap out the ingredients; just make them and thank me later.  And use your garbage disposal.

Recipe:

roasted vegetable burritos with black beans and rice
from The Kitchn
makes 8 burritos with extra filling

Ingredients:
1 small head broccoli (about 1/2 pound)
1 small head cauliflower (about 1/2 pound)
1 large carrot
1 yellow onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 cup rice, brown or white
1 15.5-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 cups shredded cheese (5 to 6 ounces)
2 cups crumbled tofu, shredded chicken, or shredded beef (meat should be cooked prior to assembling the burritos)
8 large burrito-sized flour tortillas (9 to 10 inches wide)
Optional extras: sliced avocado, sour cream, salsa, hot sauce, sliced scallions
Instructions:
1) Pre-heat the oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat.
2) Chop the broccoli and cauliflower into bite-sized florets and stems. Chop the carrot into small pieces. Slice the onion through the root into wedges.
3) Toss all the vegetables together with the olive oil and salt, then spread in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast until the vegetables are tender but still have some bite and have developed brown spots, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir the vegetables occasionally while they're roasting.
4) Remove the wedges of onion and roughly chop them into small pieces. Return the onion to the vegetables. Taste and toss with chili powder and additional salt if desired. Set aside.
5) While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the rice according to your package directions. Once cooked, fluff and set aside.
6) To assemble the burritos, wrap one or more tortillas in a clean, damp dishcloth and microwave for about 20 seconds to soften. (This helps prevent the tortillas from cracking when you roll them.) Lay the tortilla on the counter and layer about 1/4 cup of cheese, about 1/4 cup rice, about 1/4 cup black beans, about 1/4 cup vegetables, and about 1/4 cup crumbled tofu on the lower third of the burrito. Any extras can go on top. Don't worry too much about the exact amount of each component: aim for 1 to 1 1/2 cups total filling per burrito.
7) Roll the burrito tightly by folding the sides over the filling, then rolling from the bottom up.  If you're not eating the burrito immediately, wrap it tightly in foil and refrigerate for up to 12 hours; don't refrigerate burritos for more than 12 hours or they start to get soggy. Burritos can also be assembled, wrapped in foil, and frozen for up to 3 months. Individual burrito components can be refrigerated for up to a week.
→ To heat just-prepared burritos or refrigerated burritos: cover with a damp paper towel and microwave at high power for 1 minute, until heated through. (Unwrap refrigerated burritos before heating.)
→ To heat frozen burritos, unwrap, cover with a damp paper towel, and microwave at high power for 2 minutes. Flip the burrito over, cover again, and microwave for another 1 to 2 minutes, until the burrito is heated through.



Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Strawberry Coffee Cake

This is the second new recipe I made to bring to my house closing, along with the delicious feta and chive sour cream scones and my good old pecan rolls.  As I said before, it may be bizarre to bring breakfast to a lawyer, but it made me feel good to do it.  As I also said in a previous post, I was a bit overwhelmed the day of the closing.  Overwhelmed, as in, I felt like I was maybe going to pass out when I emptied out my savings account at the bank.  As in, we bought a box of coffee from Dunkin' Donuts and proceeded to leave it in my car.  As in, I had already cried maybe two times by 10 AM.  I was excited and happy, but oh so overwhelmed with everything.  And so let me add: as in, I forgot this cake on the counter at home.  Oops.

But it ended up not being such a bad thing.  After all, my family is always happy when there is a cake around.  It got cut into later that afternoon when my aunt Linda came over to help us move.  We left it at my mom's house, since at this point, I didn't have plates or silverware yet (not till my shower 2 days later!).  Once I did have civilized items in the house, we brought the cake here and I served it up when people came to visit and check out the new place.

Now, if you bake often, you know that many baked goods, like cakes, don't last that long.  They get stale, or gummy, or just not so great.  But the weird part of this cake?  It stays good.  It stays good for a long time.  Like, I was still serving this just about a week after I baked it.  That is unheard of!!!  I am not sure what it was about the cake that kept it good (I was still getting compliments on it!) for so long; the cake has a lot of sour cream in it, which I am sure helped to keep it moist.  It has a flavor of vanilla mixed with a touch of almond from a drop of almond extract.  Then there is a layer of cooked-down strawberries  (delicious!) and topped with streusel.

Besides the fact that this cake was so good, you should make it just for its long-lasting quality!  Got a party this weekend?  Bake the cake tonight!  You can relax Friday night! :)

Recipe:

strawberry coffee cake
from Joy the Baker

Ingredients:
1 heaping cup sliced strawberries
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons water
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
a few drops of almond extract

topping:
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar

Instructions:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Make the topping: combine all the ingredients in a bowl and rub together with your fingertips until crumbly.  Set aside.

2) Make the strawberry mixture: combine the strawberries, 1/3 cup sugar, water, and cornstarch in a small saucepan.  Cook over low heat for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring constantly until the sauce is thickened and strawberries are soft and somewhat broken down.  Set aside to cool.

3) Grease and flour a 10 x 10 inch baking dish, knocking out excess flour, and set aside.

4) Make the coffee cake: cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add vanilla extract and almond extract.

5) Sift dry ingredients together.  Add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter in 3 parts, alternating with the sour cream in 2 parts, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Beat until just combined.

6) Spoon 2/3 of the batter into the prepared pan.  Spread the cooled strawberry mixture over the batter.  Spoon the remaining batter onto the strawberries and spread evenly.  Top with streusel topping and bake in upper third of the oven.  Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Liebster Award

I got a blogging award!  Wahoo! Thanks to Lilias from Fresh Mama for nominating me :)  She has a great blog with delicious recipes - including those granola bars that were so amazing - and she was nominated for the Leibster Award.  This is an award that is given to new bloggers, and can help them get more followers (you know, so maybe more people than my mom, aunts, Anne and Laura will read my great recipes ;)  ).   The cool thing is that you have to be nominated by a previous winner, which Fresh Mama is, and I was one of her nominations.  Go Bridget's Year of cooking! :)

The rules for the Liebster award are simple: 
1. Thank the blogger that nominated you
2. Answer 11 questions asked by the blogger
3. Provide 11 random facts about yourself
4. Nominate 5 or more bloggers
5. Let all of the nominees know they have been nominated
6. Write 11 new questions for your nominees

Now, the problem is that I don't follow 5 or more new blogs.  In fact, I just follow one.  Let me make this clear: just because my cousin Kelsey is the only new blogger I follow, does not mean I am nominating her because she is the only choice!  I am nominating Kelsey's Bohemian Dreamer because she is awesome.  She's a fashion student who not only tells you how to get the looks from music videos and TV, she tells you the details about her outfits, makes her own clothes (don't get me started on her knitting) and even makes movies.  She's a true fashionista.  Congrats, Kels :)

So, here are Fresh Mama's questions:

1. What is your favorite color?
cerulean blue... the exact blue you will see on my bridesmaids in 3 weeks!

2. What do you find to be the most difficult part of writing a blog?
Simply finding the time to blog is the hardest part for me.  Then again, I just bought a house and am planning a wedding.  This has been the hardest couple months to blog because of everything else going on!  Hopefully things will get a bit easier after July :)

3. What is one part of the world you hope to visit someday?
Italy.  I've always wanted to go to Venice!

4. What has blogging brought into your life that is unique and special?
Blogging has let me write again, which I always loved to do.  It has also brought me a real appreciation for the "legit bloggers," the ones I follow and drool over their photography and try out their recipes!  I like to think of myself as an amateur blogger (even though I've been at it for almost 2 years),  and I am so impressed by the real deals.

5. Do you have a habit that drives your loved ones crazy?
Probably just the fact that I cook vegetarian!

6.  What is one food you eat as often as possible?
Potatoes.  In any form.  Mashed, fried, baked, roasted, etcetera. 

7. What life experience has impacted you the most?
I can't pick just one.  There are way too many.  I think that everything in someone's life makes them who they are.

8. Do you have a hidden talent?
You know, this was a question I asked my fifth graders on the first day of school last year as a fun little quiz: How Well Do You Know Miss Tucker?  And they all knew that I could sing.  So I guess saying that singing is my secret talent is kind of a lie because everyone knows about it.  So I will say this: my hidden talent is that I can cross one eye.  Is that a talent or just a deformity?

9. If you could have lived in a past era, what would it be?
Definitely not the Middle Ages due to my recurring nightmares about Middle Aged wars with arrows... I'd say maybe the 60s because of the great music?  I'd prefer to avoid wars of any kind, now that I think about it.  I almost said Revolutionary times because I find it so fascinating but on second thought, that's too scary.

10. Name one blog which inspires you the most.
Ooooh that's tough.  Do I choose the one I try to emulate most now, or the one that got me blogging in the first place?!  How about I just give a shout out to both.  Annie's Eats - which I have mentioned thousands of times - was the first food blog I started following.  I have read every single post of hers for years.  She makes everything seem easy and doable.  And then there is A Couple Cooks.  They're a husband and wife team who mostly cook vegetarian.  They are into eating healthy and local, and their recipes are always awesome.  Either one of these blogs will not let you down if you feel like cooking a new recipe.

11. What is your middle name?
Haley - just like 90% of the Compounders :)



11 Random Facts About Me
1) I am getting married 3 weeks from yesterday to my BFF.
2) One month ago today, I closed on my dream home.  And now that I have a garbage disposal (thanks Pat!) it is truly perfect.
3) The giraffe is my favorite animal, but the basset hound is my true love.
4) I've never had On Demand before and it is pretty dangerous.  I've been known to binge on reality TV of all types (Bachelorette, Big Brother, Survivor, Amazing Race, Dance Moms, etc.)....
5) This next school year, my first class of students will graduate high school!  I'm getting old!
6) I love to read and used to have a yearly competition with Anne to see who could read more books :)
7) I wear contact lenses.
8) I didn't get my ears pierces until I was 18, and it was a bad scene.  But now I make up for lost time with earrings.
9) I do not iron. But Mark does.  This is good.
10) I hate the feeling of shoes touching my feet, unless they are flip flops.  Hence me Peds addiction that I am ridiculed for!
11) I hand-raised a baby mouse and today is his 3rd birthday :) Love you, Neely!


Now here are my 11 questions:
1. What are your top 3 books?
2. What is your favorite vacation location?
3. What made you decide to start blogging?
4. What strange jobs did you want to have as a child?  I wanted to squeegee at gas stations...
5. What TV show are you embarrassed to admit watching?
6.  If you could suddenly become fluent in another language, what would it be and why?
7. What is your most irrational fear?
8. How many tabs of Safari/Firefox/Explorer etc. do you have open right now?
9. Are you scared of bugs?
10. What song is in your head right now?
11. What app do you use most often on your phone?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Feta and Chive Sour Cream Scones

It's actually a perfect day to be posting this recipe, even if it's a little late.  I made these scones (really I think they are biscuits, but I will call them what Joy the Baker does) June 4th.  On June 4th, I should have been packing; we were closing on our new house at 10:00 the next morning.  But I was stressed and overwhelmed, so I stress-baked.  I made a nice big batch of the amazing and always wonderful caramel pecan rolls, along with a coffee cake (my next post) and these scones.  The baking definitely helped calm my nerves, but I ended up with a cake, 24 pecan rolls, and 12 scones.  I decided to bring all my baked goods with me to the closing the next morning.

So, armed with a basket of pecan rolls and a tupperware of scones, off to the closing we went.  I won't say I wasn't still overwhelmed and nervous (I think I almost threw up at the bank when I got my down payment), but I felt good that I was bringing breakfast.  I tried to bring a box of coffee too, but in my stress, left it in my car.

Anyway, the rolls and the scones were both big hits.  The lawyer told me that I was the first person in all his years practicing law to bring food to a closing.  I was really glad that I did though.  Everyone loved them; the sellers said they had been starving and hadn't had time for breakfast, and I left lost of leftover baked goods with the secretary :) but I have to say that I loved these scones the most.  They were so amazing.  Soft, buttery and flaky, studded with feta cheese and chopped chives, topped with smoked paprika and a sprinkle of sea salt... can you imagine a better baked good in all your life?!  Because I cannot.  Why haven't I thought of savory scones before?  It's truly ingenious.

Back to why I said it was a perfect day to post about these salty, smoky, flaky little gems: they will forever remind me of the closing, the day that we officially bought this house.  This wonderful, beautiful, truly perfect house (okay, perfect except for the lack of garbage disposal but we are adding that this week).  Today the house became a bit more of a home with the addition of outdoor furniture including a grill and a fire pit!  Plus, my aunt Tracy gave me a dining room table and 2 chairs, so we don't have to eat our dinners on the floor anymore :) But the point is, today was really the first day I got to just relax here; no beach vacation, no work (summer time!!!), no parties - just being home.  I took my book outside to read, dangled my feet in the pool, and watched a little bird bringing insects to its babies in the little birdhouse nearby.  I was so incredibly content.  I love this house.  I love these scones.  See the connection? :)

Recipe:

feta and chive sour cream scones
from Joy the Baker
makes about 12 small scones

Ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons cold water
3/4 cup sour cream, cold
1/3 cup chopped chives
3/4 cup big crumbles of feta cheese
1 egg beaten for egg wash
coarse sea salt, cracked black pepper, and smoked paprika for topping

Instructions:

1) Place rack in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2) Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

3) In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and black pepper.  Cut in butter (using your fingers or a pastry cutter) until mixture resembles a coarse meal.  In another bowl, combine egg, sour cream, and water.  Beat lightly with a fork.  Add to flour mixture all at once, stirring enough to make a soft and shaggy dough.  Add the chives and feta and dump mixture on a clean counter to knead the dough together.  The mixture will come together in about 10 to 15 kneads.

4) Roll or pat out into a 1-inch thickness.  Cut into 2-inch rounds using a biscuit cutter or cut into 2x2-inch squares.  Reshape and roll rough to create more biscuits with excess scraps.  Place on prepared baking sheet, brush with egg wash, and sprinkle with coarse sea salt, black pepper, and smoked paprika.  Bake for 12 - 15 minutes.  Serve warm.  These biscuits are best eaten the day they're made, but will last up to 2 days.

Pre-baking!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Skinny Queso Dip

You are never going to believe this, but it's true: there is a queso dip out there in the world that is not just one giant heart attack waiting to happen.  I know that low fat queso sounds impossible, or at least tasteless and pasty.  And let me tell you, while I was cooking this, I definitely had my doubts.  There are a few steps where this recipe looks pretty gross (the secret is in the corn starch, but it makes for a pretty weird-looking queso in the beginning).  But honestly?  This dip is amazing.  Hot, cheesy, and full of tomatoes, garlic, onions, lime juice, fresh cilantro, and spices like cumin to chili powder... I am craving it just thinking about it.  I should probably also say that it has two types of hot peppers in there too, but clearly I left them out of mine!

So you are probably wondering, how on earth can queso be skinny?!  As I said, the secret is in the corn starch.  It thickens everything up without the use of tons of cheese.  In fact, there were less than 2 cups of (reduced fat) cheese in this queso dip!  And only a teaspoon of oil used to cook up the vegetables.  Using skim milk to make the corn starch slurry helps too :)  Lots of special little tricks to make a ridiculously delicious and bizarrely low fat (less than 93 calories in 1/4 cup, not including chips) queso dip!  Kenzie and I are proud to admit that we chowed down on this pot of cheesy goodness by ourselves.... and perhaps I started eating it while she napped until I knew I was going to need help stopping myself!

Recipe:

skinny queso dip
from Skinny Taste
makes 11 1/4-cup servings

Ingredients:
1 cup skim milk
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 cup minced onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 poblano pepper, diced (I skipped that)
1 - 2 jalapeƱos, seeded and diced (skipped)
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
10 ounce can Rotel tomatoes with chiles, diced and drained
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
juice of 1 lime
salt and black pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1 3/4 chips shredded reduced fat sharp cheddar

Instructions:

1) In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup of the milk with 3 tablespoons cornstarch to create a slurry; set aside.

2) Heat a large saucepan on medium heat; when hot, add oil.  Add the onions, garlic, poblano, and jalapeƱo and cook until soft, about 5 - 7 minutes.  Season with salt, to taste.

3) Add the chicken broth and the rest of the milk.  Bring to a boil and cook for about 3 minutes to reduce slightly.

4) Add the slurry to the pan and stir; simmer a minute until it bubbles and thickens, then reduce heat to low.

5) Add the drained tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper.  Remove from heat and add the cheese.  Stir until it melts completely.  Serve immediately.
Realizing I was about to eat the entire pot of queso alone....


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Strawberry, Mango and Avocado Salad

This was a surprisingly delicious salad that I made on my wedding invitation party night! I invited Anne and Caitlin over to help my sisters, Mom and I write out the hundreds of addresses and return addresses - not to mention all the stamping and envelope-licking.  They were HUGE helps and we got the job done in a short and minimally painful 3 hours.  They needed their energy before all that work, so I made dinner.  I decided to make beans and rice for dinner (just in case Dani came, I wanted to stay gluten free!) and I tried this salad out with it.

Even I had to admit that this salad sounds weird.  Avocado with strawberries?  And mango with balsamic vinegar?  And honey with cayenne pepper?  The answer to all these questions is yes.  Yes, put smooth, creamy avocado with bright, sweet strawberries.  Temper the super sweetness of mango with tangy balsamic vinegar.  Spice up honey with cayenne pepper.  And throw it all together with cilantro, lime and orange juices, and salt, and you have just the most bizarrely wonderful salad.

I think I was not alone in being shocked how great this salad was.  Even I, who love weird foods, had my doubts, but I thought it was great.  Sweet, cold, bright, and clean-tasting, it was a great addition to a beans-and-rice meal.  More shocking, though, was that everyone else loved it too.  Even my mom, and she hates weird food.  We all devoured it, even eating it on top of the rice and beans.  It's a perfect summery salad.  I know: it sounds really weird, but just go with it.

Recipe:

strawberry, mango and avocado salad
from Pink Parsley

Ingredients:
1 mango, peeled, pitted and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup chopped strawberries
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons orange juice
juice of 1/2 lime
pinch cayenne
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
1 avocado, pitted and cut into 1-inch cubes
kosher salt

Instructions:

1) In a medium bowl, whisk together the honey, vinegar, orange juice, lime juice, cayenne, salt, and cilantro.  Toss with strawberries and mango, and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes.

2) When ready to serve, gently mix in the avocado.  Season with salt to taste and serve immediately.