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Beer Cookies?

It took a long time for me to come around to beer. I want whatever I’m eating or drinking to taste good, and my early experiences with beer didn’t do anything to convince me that it was worth the calories. I’ll take an extra-dark, fudgy brownie instead.

However, I’m not opposed to trying new things, so when a friend offered me a sip of a craft beer, I gave it a try. And, to my surprise, I liked it. So much for just being a wine and margarita girl. ;-)

Of course, discovering a new food (or drink) love opens up a whole world of new recipes, so when I saw this recipe come through my RSS reader, I was immediately intrigued. Cookies? Beer? Could this be good? Unfortunately, my “recipes to try” list grows faster than I can keep up with, so the recipe got lost in the clutter for two years a while.

I finally got around to trying them this past weekend, and wow. They were even better than I thought they’d be. In fact, Andy said they were as good as chocolate chip cookies, which is the pinnacle of greatness in his mind. We shared them with Arron and Karen, and they liked them just as much as we did. They’re perfectly soft and chewy, which is a non-negotiable for me.

I’m not a craft beer expert by any means, so I looked for something that said “brown ale” on the label, and Fat Squirrel fit the bill. And after finishing the bottle (you know, so it wouldn’t go to waste), I’m glad I picked it. At first, the flavor of the ale was very subtle in the batter, but the longer the batter sat in the fridge, the more pronounced it became. It’s not overpowering, but it definitely adds something special to the cookie. I think they’d be a great base for an ice cream sandwich too.

I doubled the recipe, since Erin said that I’d only get 12 cookies out of a single batch. I must have made them smaller than she did, since I had significantly more than 24 cookies when I was done. I’m including the double batch below, because more cookies are always better. Especially when they’re this good.

The real name of the recipe was “Chewy Brown Sugar and Brown Ale” cookies, but I shortened it to “Brown Sugar and Ale” cookies for the blog. Of course, that’s still a relatively long name for a cookie, so we’re just calling them “beer cookies.” Move over, milk and cookies; beer and cookies are here to stay. :-)

BeerCookies

Brown Sugar & Ale Cookies

3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups light brown sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup brown ale
2 1/2 cups AP flour
2 cups bread flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
granulated sugar, for rolling

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and brown sugar. When the butter and sugar are well combined, add the egg yolks and vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy, then add the beer. Beat until well combined.

In a separate bowl (I used my 8-cup Pyrex measuring cup for this step, for easy pouring), whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cornstarch and cinnamon.

Add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl and mix until just combined. (Start with the mixer on low for this step. Trust me.)

Use a cookie scoop to roll the dough into balls about 1 1/2″ in diameter, or slightly smaller than a golf ball. Roll the cookie dough balls in the granulated sugar and then place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill the dough in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes before baking.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Place the chilled dough balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, being sure to leave plenty of space between the cookies, as they spread a lot during baking. (I was able to fit 8 cookies on a single large cookie sheet.)

Bake for 14 minutes, or until the edges start to turn golden brown. Remove the sheet from the oven and slide the parchment paper off of the cookie sheet and on to a wire rack. Let the cookies cool completely before removing them from the parchment paper.

Store in an airtight container.

As seen on Erin’s Food Files, originally adapted from the Beeroness

Notes:
Erin says that you can bake the cookies at a higher temperature for a shorter time, which will result in a puffier cookie. I didn’t try this, as we loved the cookies with the 325 degree/14 minute bake.

I rolled about half of the dough into balls and then froze them (as described above), but we decided to go cross-country skiing halfway into my cookie baking project, so I put the rest of the dough in the fridge to shape/roll when we returned. I didn’t notice a difference in the cookies that were rolled then chilled versus chilled then rolled, so I think it’s safe to say that you could do whatever works best for you.

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2016 in Cookies, Dessert

 

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Crock Pot Success!

If there was a popularity contest among kitchen appliances, I really doubt the crock pot would win. It’s not pretty, like the stand mixer. It doesn’t chop/slice/dice/mince/blend everything like the food processor. It doesn’t clean up after you like the dishwasher.

In fact, the crock pot would probably be the last one picked, usually through no fault of its own. I mean, there are a lot of not-so-good crock pot recipes out there. You know the type: You put ingredients in the crock pot before work and leave, thinking that you’ll be rewarded with a delicious meal at the end of the day, only to come home to an overcooked, tasteless pile of mush. Disappointing and wasteful. (Also disappointing: Crock pot recipes that only cook for 2-4 hours. I’m gone from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. How on earth is that supposed to help me?)

This recipe, though, is not one of those disappointments, at least for me. It’s easy to put together (a must when you have to assemble it at 6:30 in the morning), and it tastes good 10 hours later. I always add potatoes, since they’re my favorite part of the traditional “pot roast.” When I remember, I add some minced garlic as well, since you can’t go wrong with garlic. :)

PotRoast

Pot Roast with Potatoes, Carrots and Onions

1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoon water
8 medium carrots, peeled (or well-scrubbed) and cut into 3″ pieces
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
2 medium onions, each cut into 8 wedges
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 3-lb. beef Chuck roast
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper

In a large (5-6 quart) crock pot, whisk together the cornstarch and water. Add the vegetables to the crock pot and season with salt and pepper.

Place the roast on top of the vegetables. Spread the minced garlic on top of the roast, then sprinkle the roast with salt and pepper. Drizzle Worcestershire sauce on top of the meat.

Cover and cook on low for 10 hours. (Martha says you can cook it on high for 6 hours, but I’ve never tried it. Like I said, I’m gone all day.) Transfer the roast and vegetables to a serving platter. If desired, strain the pan juices through a fine mesh strainer and serve alongside the meat and vegetables. (I take the lazy easy way out and simply drizzle a few spoonfuls of the pan juices over my plate before digging in.)

Adapted from Everyday Food Magazine, October 2008

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2016 in Beef, Main Dishes, Uncategorized

 

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Buckeye Pie!

It’s no secret that I love chocolate and peanut butter. (All good Ohio girls do, right? There’s a reason we’re Buckeyes, after all!) It’s the perfect combination of salty and sweet, which means that I cannot be trusted around a bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups. Or peanut butter M&Ms. Or these cookies. Apparently, I’m kind of addicted. Not that it’s a problem. I can stop whenever I want. (Yeah, right.) 

It’s not surprising then, that this pie caught my attention right away. I was flipping through my “Classic Home Desserts” cookbook last weekend, looking for an easy dessert that I could put together for our dinner and game night some of our favorite people. (Yes, we spend the weekends playing board games with friends. Yes, we might be nerds, and yes, we’re OK with that.) :) Andy suggested vanilla bean ice cream, but I wanted something less, well, vanilla. Plus, with only three hours of prep time, I knew ice cream wouldn’t be ready in time. This pie, on the other hand, could spend a hour in the freezer, get topped with a chocolate ganache and then hang out in the refrigerator until dessert. Perfect!

This recipe called for buttering the pie pan before putting the graham cracker mixture, which seemed kind of strange (after all, the crust has half of a stick of butter in it). I went ahead and followed the directions, and I ended up with my best graham cracker crust ever. It was crunchier than the other graham cracker crusts I’ve made, and it stayed together very well. It came out of the pan cleanly too. I may try the same trick next time I make cheesecake!

The peanut butter filling tastes a lot like the inside of a buckeye. The whipped cream lightens the filling (in texture and taste, not calories!), and if you get a bite of filling and chocolate topping, well, it’s just awesome. This pie is definitely my kind of perfect dessert. It’s really rich (but since when is that a problem?), so you’ll probably want a glass of milk to go with it. And honestly, I don’t think there’s much more to say about this, other than “get thee to the kitchen!” ;-)

BuckeyePie2

BuckeyePie

Peanut Butter Pie with Fudge Topping (AKA Buckeye Pie)

For the crust:
1 cup of graham cracker crumbs
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar

For the filling:
1 cup of creamy peanut butter
8 ounce of cream cheese, softened
1 cup of powdered sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, well chilled

For the chocolate topping:
6 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and make sure the oven rack is in the lower third of the oven. Butter a 9″ pie pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together the melted butter, sugar and graham cracker crumbs. Press the graham cracker mixture into the prepared pin pan, making sure the crumbs go up the sides to the edge of the rim. Use the outside of a measuring cup to tamp down the crumbs if necessary. Bake the crust for about 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

While the crust is baking, beat the cream cheese and peanut butter together in the bowl of a stand mixer. When the mixture is well-blended, add the powdered sugar, butter and vanilla and continue to beat until light and fluffy.

In a separate bowl (unless you feel like washing the bowl for your stand mixer, which is what I did), beat the 1/2 cup of whipping cream just until it’s not quite stiff. Fold a generous spoonful of the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture to lighten the filling. Gently fold in the remaining whipped cream. Spread the peanut butter filling in the cooled crust and refrigerate until firm, about three hours. You can also put the pie in the freezer for about an hour if you’re on a truncated timetable.

When the peanut butter filling is firm, make the chocolate topping. Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan and place the chocolate chips in a small, heatproof bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate chips and let it stand for a minute, then whisk until smooth. Allow chocolate mixture to cool slightly to lukewarm. Spread the chocolate topping over the peanut butter filling and then return the pie to the refrigerator. Chill until chocolate topping is firm, about three hours.

Cut the pie into wedges and serve cold.

From Classic Home Desserts

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2016 in Dessert, Pie, Uncategorized

 

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A Pleasant Surprise

I’m always on the lookout for a new way to prepare salmon. It’s Andy’s favorite fish. It’s quick and healthy, and I have quite the stockpile* in the freezer. I have a couple favorites, but like I’ve said before, I’d rather not eat the same thing all of the time. One of my on-going goals is to try more recipes from my cookbooks and magazines (because there’s no point in keeping them if I’m never going to use them), so when I saw this recipe in an old Taste of Home issue, I added it to the menu.

I have to admit, I didn’t have high expectations for dinner tonight. It would be quick (a must for Monday nights around here), easy and healthy. I figured we’d eat dinner and then move on to the dessert in the fridge (leftover peanut butter pie). I mean, this is just salmon with some garlic and herbs, right? Where’s the wow factor in that?

OK, so I was wrong. It happens occasionally. ;)

This was really good. I think we were both a little surprised at how much we liked it. The herb/garlic flavor was delicious, and I’m sure it would be even better with fresh herbs. Plus, it was done in almost no time. I think the only thing I’d do differently is to grease the baking sheet. I skipped that step (even though the recipe said to do it) since I lined the pan with aluminum foil. The skin ended up sticking to the foil, so learn from my mistakes. And don’t discount a recipe just because it doesn’t look like anything special. :)

HerbRoastedSalmon

Herb Roasted Salmon

4 6-ounce salmon fillets, with the skin on
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for the baking pan
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease the foil with olive oil.

In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper. Place the fillets, skin side down, on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the garlic/herb mixture over the salmon fillets.

Bake until the fish tests “done,” about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

From Taste of Home, December 2013

Click here for a printable version.

*My sister-in-law, Kim, introduced me to Zaycon Fresh more than a year ago. They’re a great place to buy meat in bulk, and we’ve been really happy with both the salmon and chicken breasts. I’m trying the bacon next. (We buy our beef from a local butcher/farmer, but since we’re just a *few* miles away from the ocean, buying local salmon isn’t an option.) In the spirit of full disclosure, Zaycon has no idea that I’m writing about them. I haven’t been compensated for this at all – it’s just my own two cents on the matter.

Zaycon does reward people for referring others to them, so if you were interested in signing up through my referral link, I would get a credit on my account for the next time I need fish. :) Of course, then you can refer your own friends and family and benefit every time they order. Or, you can disregard the referral link and do things on your own. Totally your call. :) 

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2016 in Main Dishes, Seafood, Uncategorized

 

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Hello, 2016!

So, I’m five days late with this 2015 recap. And while that’s two days later than last year’s recap (talk about starting things off on the wrong foot), it’s also two days earlier than when I posted my 2014 recap. As long as we’re not halfway to February, I’m going to call it good.

If you only look at the numbers, things weren’t so hot here at the Blue Plate Special. I only published 41 posts (down from a whopping 42 the year before), which mean that my 2015 goal of “writing more” was clearly not a success. Since I’m not really a numbers girl, let’s focus on what I DID accomplish over the last 365 (or so) days.

I bought a popsicle mold and jumped headfirst into the world of frozen food on a stick.

Fudgesicles

Apparently, I only wrote about one of those adventures. Hmm. I  promise that I made a lot of popsicles though.

We did a fairly good job of eating our veggies again, thanks to the good people at Olden Produce Farms. I also had my first-ever guest blog post from my awesome friend, Bethany. :)

No-Knead Bacon Bread

I tried (and succeeded) at “legit” homemade bread in my Dutch oven. I definitely need (knead, haha) to make more of this.

I also participated in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap for the third year. I have more fun each year, and I am already looking forward to next year’s swap. (Not that I am ready to wish 2016 away or anything!)

Food-wise, I started the new year with some great successes! (Of course, I was so busy having fun with my friends that I didn’t photograph any of the items… which means I should probably make these things again.)

For New Year’s Eve, I made Bailey’s truffles and Parmesan crackers, which I served with some baked brie.

Frittata

I broke out a favorite for New Year’s brunch. Feta cheese, bacon and potatoes for the win!

Garlic Parm Mashed Potatoes

The biggest excitement though, was the Cook’s Illustrated-inspired meal that I made last Saturday night. I tried the Tuscan-style roast pork from the latest issue, and I also made the garlic Parmesan mashed potatoes of 2014 fame. OH.MY.GOODNESS. We shared that dinner with Andy and Bethany, and the four of us could not stop eating. Seriously so good. I should probably write about it at some point, but I will need another long weekend to make the roast pork. (It seriously took half of my afternoon, but that’s not a surprise, right? It is a CI recipe after all.) I also made lemon pudding cakes for dessert that night.

Brown Butter Rhubarb Cupcakes

I also received more than 525 cupcake liners/baking cups for Christmas, so it’s safe to say that more muffins and cupcakes are on the horizon.

Strawberry Summer Cake

This was one of my favorite pictures from the past year, and it seems to be the perfect segue to one of my favorite Christmas gifts: mini cast iron skillets!! (Thanks to Karen. Who is nothing short of awesome.) I can’t wait to take pictures of tiny food in adorable skillets! You know, since everything is much cuter in miniature.

Other “goals” on my 2016 to-do list include trying new recipes from more of my magazines and writing “more” (whatever that looks like). We’re looking forward to another season of produce in our CSA, and I can’t wait until the garlic starts popping through the ground this spring. Who knows, maybe this will be the year that we finally start composting. Here’s to another year of adventures!

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Chai Snickerdoodles (for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!)

When I signed up for this year’s Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, I had no idea what to make. In previous years, I’ve at least had an idea of the flavor I was going for, but this year, nothing was coming to me. How is this possible? Especially when Google comes back with 105,000,000 results for “cookie recipe.” :-P

Then, one day, my coworker shared an almond cookie with me, and it hit me! Almond! I love almond! And do you know what goes perfectly with almond? Cherries! I love cherries! Plus, Andy and I picked cherries in Door County this summer, which meant I had a nice little stockpile for baking. Since I’m a big fan of eating local food, the idea of incorporating a local ingredient really appealed to me, especially since sour cherries aren’t something that’s readily available everywhere. It would be a little taste of Wisconsin for my food blogger buddies. I’d simply convert my lemon-cranberry cookie into a cherry-almond cookie. What could possibly go wrong with this?

Well… cherries, even when frozen, have a LOT more juice than cranberries, which meant that the cookies spread a lot more when they baked, and they didn’t look pretty AT ALL. And while I’ve shared plenty of ugly pictures/food on here, I wanted to send people something that looked somewhat appetizing. I was also concerned with how they’d hold up in the mail, since they didn’t seem quite as sturdy as the original recipe. So, even though the flavor was everything I’d hoped for, I went in a different direction. If I’d had more time, I’d have tracked down some dried Door County cherries and tried a batch with them. However, between Thanksgiving travel and the cookie swap deadline, I knew I wouldn’t have the time to go that route. Time for plan B. (I did end up sending a few of the “failure cookies” in each package so my recipients could taste them, and Andy gladly ate the rest of the failure cookies. The sacrifices he makes…) 

The inspiration for my second batch of cookies actually came from another work moment. We were talking about snickerdoodles, and I started thinking that it had been a while since I’d made them. And with their warm, fall spices, they seemed like the perfect cookie to bridge the gap between fall/Thanksgiving and winter/Christmas. I added ginger and cardamon to take the cookies from “standard snickerdoodle” to “Chai snickerdoodle.”

Let me introduce you to my cookie recipients, and then I’ll share who sent cookies my way!

I sent cookies to Nina at Crazy for Cookies & More (She’s from Ohio! I was so excited to send stuff to my home state); Jennifer at Girl on the Range (I was blown away by the pictures on her blog! So pretty!);  and Matt at Kitchen Man Cooks (The man has an apple crisp recipe from and center on his blog – yum!!).

The only thing more exciting than sending cookies is receiving them, and as the shipping deadline approached, I was more and more excited to check the mail when I came home from work. I mean, boxes of cookies are so much more exciting than the electric bill.

The first package to land on my doorstep was from Jessica at Citrus Blossom Bliss. A girl after my own heart, she sent snickerdoodles to me! Only, she stepped it up and added white chocolate chips to the cookies. Yum yum yum. She included a cute cookie cutter as well. Oh, and you know the trick where they say that a piece of bread will keep your cookies soft? Jessica put a slice of bread in with the cookies, and it totally worked! I’d never tried that before, but I think I will next time. So smart. :)

Krista at Destination Delish sent box number two! They were (are you ready for this?) Dark Chocolate Dipped Cranberry Rosemary Shortbread Cookies. So… kind of weird-sounding, right? I LOVED them. Andy wasn’t sure at first, but they had the same addicting properties that my apricot shortbread cookies seemed to have. Maybe it’s the butter in shortbread. Who knows. Either way, I am heading over to her site to snag the recipe ASAP. (Thanks to our crazy warm weather, my rosemary plant is still going strong.) I loved the cute tin that she sent as well! Paying it forward and using the tin for another food gift!

My last box contained some of the cutest bear cookies ever from Amanda at From Me to Vuu. Thanks!!

Finally, thanks to Julie and Lindsay for organizing / hosting the swap! I really enjoy it and appreciate all of your hard work! (Psst! Want to be involved next year? You get great cookies!) 

Chai Snickerdoodles 2

Chai Snickerdoodles

For the cookie dough:
2 3/4 cups AP flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs

For the cinnamon-sugar mixture: 
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cardamom

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking mats.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and 1 1/2 cups of sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat until well-combined. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture.

In a small, shallow bowl, stir together the 2 tablespoons of sugar, cinnamon, ginger and cardamom.

Roll the cookie dough into balls about 1 1/2″ in diameter. Roll the balls in the cinnamon sugar mixture and then place them on the prepared cookie sheets. Bake cookies until they are light golden brown on the edges (1oish minutes in my oven, 12-15 according to Martha). Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container.

Side note: Snickerdoodles make EXCELLENT ice cream sandwich cookies, if you happen to have some vanilla bean ice cream floating around. Just throwing that one out there. ;) 

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s “Cookies

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2015 in Cookies, Dessert

 

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Spontaneous Success!

Let me start by admitting that I did not plan for this one. Aldi had a sale on mangoes last week, so I violated grocery shopping rule #1 (STICK TO THE LIST!) and put one in the cart. I had no idea what I’d do with it, but 69-cent mangoes are not to be passed up.

Not only did I go off-list at the grocery store, but I also slacked off on the meal planning for the week. I put the fun important things down (dinner with friends Monday night and tacos with friends on Friday night), but that left me with three dinner-less days, and man cannot (or should not) live on Christmas cookies alone. (Not that we aren’t giving it our best shot… ;) )  And then Andy went on a last-minute work trip, which kind of killed the meal-planning motivation. I would just scrounge up something with what was in the house.

Hmm. One mango. Roughly half of a head of Napa cabbage from our last CSA share (Don’t be grossed out by that. I promise it was still good. Those produce saver bags are AMAZING.) Limes. Onions. Hmm.

Smitten Kitchen to the rescue again! This slaw was incredibly addicting. It was sweet (from the mango), sour (from the lime) and spicy (not sure if it was the red pepper flakes or my red onion) all at the same time. I subbed green pepper for the red pepper (because that’s what I had in the fridge). I didn’t have mint or cashews, so I toasted some almonds and chopped up some cilantro instead.

I was going to cook some shrimp to go with it, but, as I said before, my motivation was dwindling. Plus, I was kind of going to town on the slaw, so I decided to make a meal out of just that. And then I ate the rest for lunch the next day. Like I said, addicting. Good thing Andy was gone so I didn’t have to share. ;)

MangoSlaw

Cabbage & Mango Slaw

1 pound of Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
1-2 mangoes, thinly sliced (Deb’s recipe calls for 2 mangoes. I only had one on hand, but I would definitely go for 2. More mango is never a bad thing.) 
1/2 green pepper, thinly sliced
1/3 of a large red onion, thinly sliced
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
handful of fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Combine the cabbage, mangoes, green pepper and red onion in a large bowl.

Whisk the lime juice, rice vinegar, red pepper flakes, salt and oil together in a small bowl. Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and add the cilantro to the bowl. Toss the salad a few times to make sure the dressing is well-distributed.

Just before serving, sprinkle with the toasted almonds.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2015 in Side Dishes

 

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