Taco Night

Tacos are versatile, easy to prepare and fun to eat. Last night I prepared two taco offerings, Quinoa & Sweet Potato and Grilled Citrus Chicken. A relaxed taco party is a great way to unwind and celebrate dinner. Here are my tips and recipes for a taco night to remember!

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Prep Schedule

1. Ambiance: Create a festive space outside, set the tablecloth, put on some party music, bring out the drinks and prepare cocktails.

2. Light the charcoal and cook: It takes 30 to 40 minutes for the charcoal chimney to work its magic. In the meantime, I cooked the quinoa and sweet potatoes, marinated the chicken, grabbed the Sriracha and prepped the cilantro, avocado, fresh lime, chili and queso fresco.

3. Serving outside: To save time, I keep a stack of trays and cutting boards close by to transport drinks, food and serving pieces outside. We dine outside almost every night and the trays keep me organized, making clean up a breeze. Before heading outside, I stacked every item I needed on two trays. I placed the tray full of fresh toppings on the dining table, before heading to the grill with cutting board and tongs.

4. Grilling: Once the charcoal was dumped and spread evenly, I waited for the grates to warm up and then grilled the chicken. Once finished, the chicken rested on the cutting board under a tent of aluminum foil. I placed each corn tortilla on the grill for 10 to 15 seconds per side.

Recipes : Quinoa & Sweet Potato Tacos – Serves 4

Quinoa

  • 1 cup of organic red quinoa, rinsed
  • 2  1/4 cups of water
  • 1 cracked garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup of cilantro
  • 1/2 of a lime, juiced

Add quinoa and water to a medium sauce pan, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, keep covered and cook for 10 minutes. The grains will crack slightly and soften. Turn off heat and discard garlic clove. Stir in cilantro, lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Let cool.

Sweet Potatoes

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Rinse and peel potatoes, cut into large dice. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 35 minutes, tossing once halfway through. Let cool for 5 minutes.

Mix quinoa and sweet potatoes, add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with warm corn tortillas and fresh toppings.

Grilled Citrus Chicken Tacos – Serves 4 

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1 lemon – juice and zest
  • 1 lime – juice and zest
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pepper

Prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire, around 375 to 450 degrees F. Pound chicken breasts to 3/4 of an inch, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour juice and zest over chicken and coat, marinate for at least 30 minutes. Grill 6 to 8 minutes per side, first searing the meat and then moving it to a cooler spot on the grill if needed. When fully cooked, the internal temperature of chicken should be 165 degrees F. Anticipate some carry over cooking once the chicken is removed from the grill, let rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Squeeze fresh lime over the chicken and slice thinly at the table. Serve with warm corn tortillas and fresh toppings.

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Local ingredients : Bloomingfoods East is my go-to store for buying organic and local ingredients. Currently, they are offering organic Miller Farm’s Amish Chicken, along with local sweet potatoes and tomatoes.

Drink pairings:  Michael enjoyed a beer with his tacos, New Belgium’s Rolle Bolle. This summer seasonal ale is brewed with soursop and monk fruit and is slightly tart and citrusy. I chose Hudson Vineyards Grenache Rose. The wine is fruity, with floral notes and a touch of minerality. It was great with the grilled chicken.

What is your favorite taco?  Grains, beans, pickled vegetables and fish are other exciting options for Taco Night. Please share your favorite taco ingredients with me in the comments.

Styling ::: Local Flowers

A big bouquet of fresh flowers, what’s not to love? Flowers make people happy. Just yesterday a lady called me a “picture” as I carried an armful of flowers through the Farmer’s Market. My love affair with local flowers began about five years ago. I started a catering company and ordered flowers weekly for tastings and events. Every Wednesday I would wait for the flowers to arrive, happily close my spreadsheet, forget my email and immerse myself in beautiful blooms. Using local flowers allowed me to create a steady revenue stream for my business, support local farmers and delight clients.

Fresh local flowers from Heartland Family Farm

Fresh flowers from Heartland Family Farm

This weekend, I had the pleasure of styling a wedding reception for a beautiful couple. I selected a hippy-chic theme full of eco-friendly elements, reflecting the bride and groom’s love of music, local culture and family.

Early Saturday morning I stopped to see my flower guru, Sara McGee of the Heartland Family Farm. Sara has been my local flower supplier for over 5 years, bringing me buckets of lush ruffled peonies, fragrant bells of ireland and everything in between. Sara’s flowers are beautiful and fresh. I also procure flowers from Harvest Moon Flower Farm. Linda Chapman is an amazing artist and I swoon over her arrangements every Saturday. Linda took me on a tour of her farm a few years ago. If you ever have a chance to take a tour, do so! The farm is breathtakingly beautiful.

Here are 3 of my favorite details from the reception :

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1. Arranging the flowers : I worked on a picnic table and my supplies included: 11 large ball jars, a pair of sharp scissors, one overstuffed bucket of fresh local flowers and water.

Technique : Fill the jars with water halfway before placing the flowers. Snip off the ends of the flowers if need be. Start with a focal point flower, here I used the peony. Work in circular pattern adding blooms as you slowly turn the bouquet. My flower style is organic and free form, striving for lush arrangements that aren’t too perfect. The goal is to let each bloom shine.

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2. The table decor : A mixture of tapestries were set as tableclothes. So many beautiful colors and patterns adorned the tables and the designs worked beautifully with the flowers.

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3. The drinks : An infused water bar provided mint & lemon water and blueberry & strawberry water. For more ideas on infused water, see my post here.

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If you have a chance, stop by the Farmer’s Market and pick up a BIG bouquet of flowers. Spend a little time arranging the blooms and spread the arrangements around your house. Flowers are a great way to bring fresh positive energy into every space, delight the senses and make people feel special.