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Entrees

Tex-Mex Rice Bowl with Salsa Fresca

tex mex rice bowl #shop

For Cinco de Mayo,I decided to try a south-of-the-board-inspired dish quite popular throughout the Southwest. I used to live in Houston and Tex-Mex “anything” was always a popular item on every restaurant’s menu. So I wanted to take some of my favorite ingredients (brown rice and ground turkey) and create a healthier version of a Tex-Mex Rice Bowl.

tex-mex rice bowl

Tex-Mex Rice Bowl

First, I made a salsa fresca, which is also known as pico de gallo, with fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic, sweet peppers, olive oil, lime juice and cilantro. I got all of my ingredients for salsa fresca in place (mise en place) and I was off-and-running.

salsa fresca mise en place #shop

This portion of the Tex-Mex Rice Bowl recipe, the prep for the salsa fresca, takes about 15 minutes of cutting and dicing. After that, the recipe goes quite fast.

I tend to prefer mildly spicy foods, so I’m using sweet peppers in this recipe. But if you like something with more fire, definitely swap out the sweet peppers for jalapeno peppers. Combine all of the salsa fresca ingredients in a large glass or ceramic bowl.

salsa fresca

Then set aside to let it marinate while you prepare the ground turkey and rice mixtures. Gather all of your ingredients and measure out the spices to make cooking a breeze:

tex mex rice bowl ingredients mise en place #shop

First you’ll cook the instant brown rice, following the package directions. Set aside.

In a large stock pot, heat the ground turkey over medium-high heat. Cook until done and stir to crumble. Stir in the water, chili powder, paprika, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper. Bring this to a simmer, then stir in the corn and black beans. Cook for about 2 minutes, then stir in the brown rice and cook for another 2 minutes.

Ladle the rice mixture into individual serving bowls. Top each bowl with salsa fresca and sprinkle with cilantro. I’ve found that when I have a large group or if your family has different levels of spice, heat they like that it’s best to let each individual add as much (or little) of the salsa fresca as they like to personalize their own Tex-Mex Rice Bowls. That way everybody gets what they want.

This Tex-Mex Rice Bowl recipe makes a large batch; enough for 8 to 10 people. If you have leftovers, freeze the turkey-rice mixture for up to 2 months in an airtight container. For any leftover salsa fresca, that will keep for only a few days in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Use leftover salsa alone or add to melted Cheddar cheese as a dip.

Tex-Mex Rice Bowl

Rating: 51

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Yield: about 8 to 10 servings

Tex-Mex Rice Bowl

This dish has many variations in texture, from the rice and beans to the corn and salsa fresca. Personally, I like to add a small dollop of creamy, cool sour cream on the top of a hot Tex-Mex rice bowl to help cleanse the palate from the spice.

Ingredients

For salsa fresca:
4 medium plum or vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
1 medium white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 sweet peppers, seeded (with ribs removed) and diced (substitute with jalapeno peppers, if desired)
1 tablespoon olive oil
fresh-squeezed juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
For Tex-Mex bowl:
1 pound lean ground turkey
16 ounces instant brown rice (about 4 cups, dry)
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups whole kernel corn
30 ounces black beans, rinsed and drained
4 teaspoons fresh cilantro, chopped

Instructions

Instructions for salsa fresca:

In a large glass or ceramic bowl, combine all ingredients and set aside to let it marinate.

Instructions for Tex-Mex rice bowl:

Cook instant brown rice according to the package directions; set aside.

Heat a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the ground turkey. Cook until done, stirring to crumble. Stir in water, chili powder, paprika, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper. Bring to a simmer.

Stir in corn and beans. Cook for 2 minutes. Stir in rice and cook for 2 minutes.

Scoop rice mixture into individual serving bowls. Top each bowl with salsa fresca and cilantro.

Notes

I would rate the level of spiciness for this recipe at medium. If you prefer a milder spice level, reduce the amount of chili powder and cumin. If you like a very spicy dish, substitute jalapeno peppers for the sweet peppers.

The majority of prep time for this dish is for the salsa fresca. You could also make the salsa fresca in advance and keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours.

https://bakedchicago.com/tex-mex-rice-bowl-recipe/

Contests & Promotions/ Twitter Party

RSVP for #MyMarianos Twitter Party, June 9

canta mato salad #FuelTheLove #ad

Collective Bias #TwitterParty disclosure #cbias #shop

Do you love a good Twitter Party? You know I do, and I’m excited to host a party about outdoor entertaining and summer events! On Monday, June 9, at 8:00 pm CT, please join me for the #MyMarianos Twitter Party where we’ll be discussing how Mariano’s can help with summer fun, AND of course, giving you a chance to win prizes!

For me, summer means more picnics, relaxing outdoors with friends and family, and exploring all the festivals and special events that Chicago has to offer. That means less time that I want to spend in the kitchen and finding new menu ideas that take advantage of all the fresh produce that’s in season. Mariano’s offers a great variety of summer meal options, from gourmet-on-the-go freshly prepared foods to easy recipes that don’t keep you in the kitchen longer than needed.

During this Twitter Party, we’ll share ideas for making your next picnic stress free, and talk about the iconic Chicago summer events you’re most excited about, like Taste of Chicago and the Grant Park Music Festival.

Join me and RSVP for #MyMarianos Twitter Party on SoFabChats!

#MyMarianos Twitter Party

DATE: Monday, June 9

TIME: 8:00 – 9:00 pm CT/ 9:00 – 10:00 pm ET

PRIZES: 5- $100 Mariano’sGift Cards

EARLY BIRD PRIZE: 1 – $50 Mariano’s Gift Card

HOSTS: @SweepTight, @BakedChicago, @GrandbabyCake, @peanutsgang2004, @3girlsmomma19, @xokammie

SPECIAL GUEST: @MarianosMarket

RULES: #MyMarianos Twitter Party Official Rules

RSVP & PARTY GRID: #MyMarianos Twitter Party Page

How To Participate In A Twitter Party on SoFabChats!

TIP:  How to join a Twitter Party – sign in! Before party starts, click on the green “Sign In On Twitter” bar at the top of the page!

TIP: Who to follow at a Twitter Party? Follow the Party Team by clicking on the Twitter handle links on the RSVP page!

TIP: Want to win Twitter Party prizes? RSVP by clicking on RSVP button before you join the party, follow everyone on the Party Team, and tweet with the party hashtag during the party to be eligible!

TIP: How to win the Early Bird prize? Watch for chance to share a tweet when you RSVP for chance to win!

TIP: Special deals and brand coupons? Keep that options checked when you RSVP for the party!

TIP: New to Twitter parties? Watch your column and Party Team tweet columns – they are slower paced and easier to follow!

TIP: Where to find Twitter Parties? Check out the SoFabChats Twitter Party Calendar to find more fun parties to attend!

Find more helpful Twitter Party Tips on SoFabChats!

Events & Entertaining

The Guy’s Guide for the Perfect Mother’s Day Picnic

canta mato salad #FuelTheLove #ad

Collective Bias Social Fabric

My mom and her cutest child (me!) #MyMarianos #CollectiveBias guy's guide for the perfect mother's day picnic

My mom and her cutest child (me!)

Finding the right gift for mom on any occasion can feel like an impossible mission for some guys (me included!). And when it comes to Mother’s Day, the pressure seems to grow exponentially.

How do you say a proper “thank you” to that person who changed your diapers, wiped your runny nose when you were sick and basically made sure that you and your siblings didn’t kill yourself or each other through the course of growing up?

A big bouquet of flowers or a huge box of chocolates? My mom would consider both extravagant. She’d eat one chocolate and share the rest, suggesting she has to watch her sugar and calorie intake.

Jewelry or a gift certificate for a massage? She usually only wears her wedding ring, and she’d much rather take a hot bath in her own tub than go to a stranger for a massage. Fancy perfume? Ivory soap is good enough for her.

On the surface, my mom might seem like a hard person to buy a present for. So what’s a son to do? The answer for me is NOT to buy a present, but rather to create the gift of an experience we can both enjoy.

I found my muse for the perfect Mother’s Day gift for my mom at Mariano’s on this #shop for #CollectiveBias. It hit me as I was exploring the delectable deli and bountiful bakery departments at the Jefferson Park #MyMarianos: a Mother’s Day picnic.

deli croissants #MyMarianos #CollectiveBias, guy's guide for the perfect mother's day picnic

When Mariano’s asked me to share a story about what inspires me about my mom, I didn’t know where to begin because my mom is inspiring in many ways. But the thing that is most amazing is that she’s always giving of herself and her time to others, to the point where she rarely takes time just for herself. She’d rather spend her money and time on her grandchildren or to help others in greater need.

To understand my mom, it helps to know where she came from. She was the 2nd youngest of 11 kids, and grew up right after the Depression. Money was always tight for her family, and some of the simplest things today were considered great luxuries back then.

One of her fondest memories growing up was when she and her mom (my grandmother) would eat ice cream right out of the carton. Back then, ice cream was a rare treat if you were poor. And they didn’t have the kind of refrigerator-freezers we have today, so storing ice cream was a challenge.

But my mom and grandmother had a solution for that: grab a spoon and eat it quick. When you’re one of 11 kids, you share everything so you just grab a spoon and dig in until it’s gone!

Pulling together a picnic doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, a successful picnic menu should be simple. All the food and drink need to be portable, easy-to-consume. Where most guys get it wrong is either by over-thinking it, or not giving it any thought at all. Success lies somewhere in the middle, so I wanted to share my tips for The Guy’s Guide for the Perfect Mother’s Day Picnic.

The Guy’s Guide for the Perfect Mother’s Day Picnic

Tip #1: Show that you’ve been listening (at least some of the time).

Growing up, mom cooked for you. Now it’s your turn to make the meal. That doesn’t mean you have to make everything from scratch. Pick a menu from all the great prepared foods you can find in the deli and bakery aisles, and be sure to include your mom’s favorite foods. Show her that you’ve been paying attention all these years!

My mom absolutely L-O-V-E-S fresh tomatoes and cold vanilla milkshakes. [Hold the whipped cream and cherry so there’s room for more milkshake in the glass!]. For as long as I can remember, my mom has planted tomatoes and cantaloupe (and sometimes watermelon) in her garden. Some days, she’ll go out to her garden and pick a fresh tomato for her lunch or dinner. She cuts up the tomato and uses a little salt and pepper. Bam! She’s got a simple, yet satisfying, meal that she loves.

For this Mother’s Day picnic menu, I’ve selected a few special items from Mariano’s bakery, deli and fresh produce section that make up the majority of the menu. I am going to make one simple dish that combines two fresh foods my mom loves: tomatoes and cantaloupe. I call the dish Canta-Mato Salad. The recipe (below) is so simple that anybody who can hold a knife and drizzle olive oil can make it. It’s deliciously simple and making at least one dish demonstrates an honest effort to give of yourself.

canta mato salad #MyMarianos #CollectiveBias, guy's guide for the perfect mother's day picnic

Picnic Menu

  • All-white meat chicken salad on buttery croissants
  • Crunchy home-style potato chips
  • Tomato-cantaloupe salad with fresh mint
  • Vanilla milkshakes

You can find chicken salad in the deli and croissants in the bakery. And select your favorite chips (for crunch) from the snack aisle.

chicken salad on buttery croissant #MyMarianos #CollectiveBias, guy's guide for the perfect mother's day picnic

Then pick three ingredients from the fresh product department: a pint of cherry tomatoes, a cantaloupe and some fresh mint.

tomatoes cantaloupes mint #MyMarianos #CollectiveBias, guy's guide for the perfect mother's day picnic

That’s all I need for a perfect picnic lunch that my mom will love. [I’ll pick up the vanilla milkshakes from the drive-through down the street from mom’s house so they’re good and cold.]

Tip #2: Don’t forget the flowers!

You might be saying, “hey, wait a minute! You said she really didn’t care about flowers!” That’s true. You don’t have to buy a huge flower bouquet, but a simple corsage that she can wear to church is something that would make her feel extra special. When people comment on her flowers, she gets to “brag” that her son gave it to her.

Tip #3: Sometimes, it’s okay to lie.

I don’t mean that it’s alright to tell your mom you’re in Hong Kong on business if you can’t be with her in person on Mother’s Day. Unless you are. Let me explain what I mean with an example of how I sometimes “lie” to my mom about the gift I’m giving her.

My mom is always thinking of others, and I know she really enjoys helping others in thoughtful ways. So I’ll sometimes get her two of something, like two differently colored corsages. Then I’ll say something like “I couldn’t decide which you’d like more” [the lie!] and suggest she give the one she doesn’t wear to a friend or someone at church who’d appreciate it. That could be an aunt, the minister’s wife or the church organist. It’s a chance for me to help my mom spread a little sunshine, because that gives her such joy to help others.

Tip #4: Your Mother’s Day celebration doesn’t have to be on Sunday only.

I’m one of six kids and everyone wants to spend time with Mom on Mother’s Day. Sometimes that’s not logistically possible.

Pick a time when you don’t have to rush around or deal with competing family schedules. In our family, one of my younger brothers always takes our mom out for a Mother’s Day lunch fundraiser at the local fire station. So I’ve chosen to treat mom to a Mother’s Day picnic on Saturday, the day before Mother’s Day. That way mom gets to celebrate a Mother’s Day weekend and I can give her the corsage in time for her to wear on Sunday to church.

Tip #5: The “perfect Mother’s Day” isn’t really about being perfect.

The perfect Mother’s Day is more about being present, being real and spending time with Mom in an authentic way that you both enjoy. Rather than putting your energy into buying a gift, show mom how much you appreciate her by spending time together and making the shared experience the gift.

For my mom, the only thing better than a Mother’s Day picnic with her cutest kid (me!) would be a Mother’s Day picnic with a side of bingo!

How are you planning to make your mom’s Mother’s Day perfect for her? Share your ideas in the comments section below. For other inspiring ideas to help make your mom’s Mother’s Day as perfect as it can be, follow Mariano’s on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. And check out the Mariano’s TasteMaker series featuring some of Chicago’s most innovative chefs.

Canta-Mato Salad

Rating: 51

12 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Canta-Mato Salad

Ingredients

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cantaloupe, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

Instructions

Gather your ingredients. Slice the cherry tomatoes. Cut the cantaloupe. Chop the mint.

Put the tomatoes and cantaloupe in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil, Add chopped mint and gently toss.

https://bakedchicago.com/the-guys-guide-perfect-mothers-day-picnic/

DIY/ Events & Entertaining

Do Green. Do Good. Chicago Flower & Garden Show Feels So Good!

Collective Bias Social Fabric

The Chicago Flower & Garden Show, presented by Mariano’s, is a much-needed reminder that spring will (eventually) get here. The Chicago Flower & Garden Show, which dates back to 1847, is all about inspiring people to “think green.” That may be to plant a vegetable garden or simply spend more time outdoors every day enjoying nature.  The theme of this year’s show (March 15 – 23, 2014, at Navy Pier) is Do Green. Do Good. 

The show is HUGE with over 20 inspirational gardens, a kids’ activities garden, culinary demonstrations, and the Marketplace filled with over 100 vendors. #MyMarianos is the official Flower Market at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show. But I was ready to explore the vast indoor landscape on this #shop for #CollectiveBias; I had on my sneakers and took my antihistamine/decongestant at breakfast. Let the hunt for floral inspiration begin!

One of my favorite flowering plants is an orchid. And there were so many beautiful colors on display. Orchids look very delicate, very simple – yet they make a big statement to any decor. If my pugs didn’t have impulse control issues (especially with anything that could be perceived to be food), I’d have orchids galore throughout my house.

#MyMarianos Flower Market #CollectiveBias #shop Chicago Flower & Garden Show

The colors of all the flowers on display were so vibrant, even indoors under artificial lighting. I guess there’s no way to hide nature’s true beauty.

#MyMarianos Flower Market #CollectiveBias #shop Chicago Flower & Garden Show

I didn’t do an official count, but I think I saw more tulips at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show than I did during my entire trip to Amsterdam.

#MyMarianos Flower Market #CollectiveBias #shop Chicago Flower & Garden Show

And who knew roses could get to be 5 feet tall!?!

#MyMarianos Flower Market #CollectiveBias #shop Chicago Flower & Garden Show

5-foot tall roses at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show!

This may shock you. [insert dramatic pause] But as a food blogger, I like talking with and learning from chefs and cooks. Each year, the Chicago Flower & Garden Show has a Garden Gourmet program with over 24 Chicago chefs sharing their best recipes that feature fresh-from-the-garden ingredients. Kicking off this year was Chef Bill Kim, the owner of Urbanbelly, bellyQ and Belly Shack. Chef Kim is also one of Mariano’s TasteMakers. He shared a recipe for Edamame Hummus that takes less than 10 minutes to make. Click for a complete list of participating chefs and Garden Gourmet demonstration dates/times.

Chicago Flower & Garden Show Tips

After a great morning at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show and with fresh flowers from Mariano’s Flower Market in hand, I headed home to see if I could put into practice what I learned. Here are some of the best tips I picked up from the floral design experts at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show:

  1. Reduce, Reuse: No space is too small to benefit from fresh flowers and plants. And there’s no need to purchase fancy vases; you can reuse everyday containers from your kitchen or pantry. I used my tall mixing bowl that came with my immersion blender (see image below) to add a pop of contemporary color for the arrangement I made for my dining room table.
  2. Get On The Grid: Place scotch tape over the top of the vase in a grid format. This helps to keep flowers in place and guide you in creating a more evenly spaced arrangement. No need for marbles or foam in the bottom of the vase.
  3. It’s Okay to Ask For Help: You’re not expected to know everything, and there are plenty of professionals who are glad to help. The staff at Mariano’s Flower Market inside the Chicago Flower & Garden Show were helpful and knowledgeable. Admittedly, I’m more confident in working with plants over fresh flowers – but they encouraged me to give a try at my own fresh flower arrangement. My insurance policy: I walked away with a palm-sized “do it yourself with Mariano’s” card with tips and instructions for how to create this look at home.
#MyMarianos Flower Market #CollectiveBias #shop Chicago Flower & Garden Show

Make a grid with scotch tape across the top of your vase to make arranging much easier.

After cutting the stems to similar heights and prepping the vessel, here’s what I came up with. What do you think? Not too bad for a newbie, if I say so myself. I obviously still have more to learn about flower arrangements, but I was proud of the effort. And the ambiance created by fresh flowers really makes a difference: my morning coffee and every meal is now so much more enjoyable.

In the past, I would periodically get flowers at Mariano’s while on a shopping adventure. I think they’ve got the best produce in town and – not to scare you, but – I’d live inside their bakery if the Health Department allowed such a thing. But my day at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show reminded me that it’s important to appreciate beauty and to let beauty into your life each day. That doesn’t always “just happen;” you have to take responsibility to make it happen for yourself. And flowers at Mariano’s is an easy way to regularly bring nature’s beauty into my home and onto my table.

#MyMarianos Flower Market #CollectiveBias #shop Chicago Flower & Garden Show

The Chicago Flower & Garden Show runs through Sunday, March 23. You can purchase tickets online or at the Navy Pier box office. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it. And all the great floral varieties you see at the Mariano’s Flower Market inside the show are also available in your local Mariano’s store. Stay connected with Mariano’s Floral Department via Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest.

Entrees/ Events & Entertaining

Find the perfect match for your Valentine’s Day menu at Mariano’s Chicago bakery

#MyMarianos, #CollectiveBias, #shop

Collective Bias Social Fabric

What's cookin' good lookin' #shop #MyMarianos slow cooker coq au vin

Does Valentine’s Day stress you out? Do you find yourself running around to every grocery store in Chicago, or calling every Chicago bakery on Yelp, to find the right romantic dessert for your sweetie? Well, stop it. Take 3 deep breaths, and just stop for a moment. You’re in need of a Valentine’s Day smack down – given out of love, of course! I totally understand because we’ve all been there before. With so many options and such high expectations (that we force upon ourselves), it can be challenging to know where to begin.

Valentine’s Day is not about how much money you spend on the one you love. It’s not about mindlessly following the crowd to celebrate the heart-iest of holidays with the masses. In the same way each relationship is unique, the way you honor your significant other and the way you celebrate Valentine’s Day together should reflect the uniqueness of the relationship you share.

I don’t like crowds, so spending Valentine’s Day with the rest of Chicago crammed inside a busy restaurant can cause a panic attack. For me, nothing speaks louder than thoughtful actions…like a quiet, home-cooked meal that reflects a shared experience. One easy way to create a Valentine’s Day menu is to build it around a theme like your favorite destination as a couple. Personally, I adore Chicago; that’s why I live here. But Paris is hands-down the most romantic city I’ve ever experienced. There is literally romance in the air throughout the City of Lights.

So for Valentine’s Day this year, I want to bring a bit of Paris into my home. Mariano’s makes that easy to do. I’m going to make a slow cooker coq au vin recipe for dinner using fresh poultry and produce from #MyMarianos. And with my Mariano’s Rewards Card in hand, I’ll supplement everything else (including flowers and wine) that I need for a romantic Valentine’s Day breakfast and dinner at home with items from the Mariano’s Bakery, Deli, International Market, Liquor and Floral departments.

Parisian all-butter croissants #MyMarianos #shop #CollectiveBias slow cooker coq au vin

In the Bakery Department, I picked up some Parisian all-butter croissants for breakfast and chocolate mousse cups for dessert. My Valentine’s Day authentic Parisian breakfast will start with:

  • French roast coffee with cream (French vanilla flavor, maybe?!)
  • orange juice
  • Mariano’s all-butter croissants
  • Bonne Maman® blackberry preserves
  • fresh blackberries from Mariano’s produce department

And don’t forget the butter! French cuisine focuses on simple, high-quality ingredients. If you’re going to have croissants made with real butter, then enjoy real butter ON them as well. Warm the croissants before serving, and consider having breakfast in bed for an indulgent start to Valentine’s Day. Oui, oui!

Slow Cooker Coq Au Vin

This recipe for slow cooker coq au vin is perfect for Valentine’s Day dinner because it only takes 20 minutes to prep; it’s easy to assemble before you head out the door for work. It cooks all day (8 hours), so it will be ready to enjoy with your sweetie when you get home. All of the ingredients for my authentic Parisian dinner menu are available at Mariano’s including:

Entrée / Side Dish
  • slow cooker coq au vin, with chicken breast, button mushrooms, pearl onions and baby carrots
  • Parisian parsley potatoes (recipe below)
Dessert
  • chocolate mousse cups from Mariano’s Bakery
Drink and Table Décor
  • wine (at least 2 bottles of red, white or sparkling) from Mariano’s Liquor Department
  • bouquet of flowers from Mariano’s Floral Department

Most of the slow cooker coq au vin ingredients I purchased on this #CollectiveBias #shop at Mariano’s were already fully prepped, except for the carrots. To give your carrots a bit of sophistication (yes, carrots can have sophistication!), cut them on the diagonal. It’s a simple trick that makes them look a bit more special.

slow cooker coq au vin diced carrots and button mushrooms #MyMarianos #shop #CollectiveBias

Valentine’s Day Menu Ideas

ooh la la - Parisian parsley potatoes are the perfect side dish for slow cooker coq au vin #shopA traditional side dish served with slow cooker coq au vin would be Parisian Parsley Potatoes. This recipe takes about 30 minutes to cook and it continues the buttery decadence that Parisian food embraces. A definite must to add to your Valentine’s Day menu.

Coq au vin would normally use a Burgundy (red) wine but this recipe uses a white wine. There are variations of coq au vin that also use champagne. Use whichever you prefer. My suggestion is to buy 2 bottles of your favorite wine. Pour one cup into the slow cooker (that’s all it takes) when you’re ready to start cooking and save the rest for your dinner.

My Valentine’s Day menu is obviously inspired by Paris. But maybe another global destination holds a more romantic meaning for you and yours. Did you honeymoon in Italy or meet the love of your life in the Mediterranean? Mariano’s Bakery (my favorite department within the store!) has hand-made Italian cookies, biscotti and cannoli. And across the aisle at Mariano’s Deli you’ll find big, beautiful Greek olives and a variety of Mediterranean salads. The point is to fill your Valentine’s Day menu with items that have meaning for you.

Still need some inspiration? Just take a stroll in Mariano’s International Market aisles. Mariano’s has items from Italian, Hispanic, Asian, Polish, Kosher, Indian, Mediterranean, German, Eastern European, British and Southern cuisines. It’s the supermarket version of around the world in 80 plates! And any of these global goodies would be a perfect match for your Valentine’s Day menu.

Mariano's international market #MyMarianos #CollectiveBias #shop slow cooker coq au vin

If you know what kind of cuisine you want to prepare but you don’t know what wine or cheese to pair and serve, Mariano’s has a team of people who are ready with suggestions. They even have a Wine & Cheese pairings area in the store to kick-start your brainstorming.

Ideas and inspiration are plentiful at Mariano’s; that’s one of the reasons why I enjoy shopping there so much. It’s not just a grocery store. For foodies, it’s like an adventure theme park filled with all kinds of deliciousness. And when I’m not inside my local Mariano’s store, I stay connected to get ideas by following #MyMarianos on social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

What are you planning for your Valentine’s Day menu? Or if the proverbial oven mitt were on your significant other’s other hand, what dish would you want them to be making just for you?

Slow Cooker Coq au Vin

Rating: 51

20 minutes

Cook Time: 8 hours

Yield: 2 servings

Slow Cooker Coq au Vin

Ingredients

6 ounces button mushrooms, cut in half
10 ounces pearl onions, frozen
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper for seasoning
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound baby carrots, sliced on an angle in 3/4-inch pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry white wine (red wine works, too)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 cup chicken broth
4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces

Instructions

In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine the mushrooms and pearl onions. Set aside.

Lightly season the chicken breasts (both sides) with salt and pepper. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil on medium high. Cook the chicken over medium-high heat until browned (about 10 minutes on each side). Place chicken over the vegetables in the slow cooker.

Using the skillet with the remaining drippings, add the chopped onion and sliced carrots. On medium heat, cook for 3 minutes or until the onion softens and becomes translucent. Stir frequently. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add the wine, tomato paste and bay leaf. Heat to boiling, stirring to dissolve the tomato paste.

Pour the wine mixture, followed by the chicken broth, over the chicken breasts in the slow cooker. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours.

About 15 minutes before you're ready to plate, cook the bacon in the microwave using a microwave-safe plate. Put 8 paper towel sheets on the plate and top with the bacon slices. I recommend cutting the bacon AFTER the cooking process. Put 4 paper towel sheets on top of the bacon slices and cook, following manufacturer's directions. For my microwave, 4 slices of thick-cut bacon will cook in 5 to 6 minutes. Cook until crispy, then cut into 1-inch pieces.

Remove the bay leaf from the slow cooker. Transfer the chicken, vegetables and sauce to a deep serving platter or plate immediately on individual plates. Sprinkle each serving with bacon and enjoy.

Notes

Let this cook during the day while you're at work. But if you need to whip it up faster, you can cook it on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours.

https://bakedchicago.com/slow-cooker-coq-au-vin/

Entrees

My Latest Mariano’s Adventure: Tex-Mex Rice Bowl with Salsa Fresca

tex mex rice bowl #shop

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With the recent shakeup in the Chicagoland grocery store landscape, I’m glad I can still count on #MyMarianos store in Jefferson Park. The store has ample parking, it’s clean and the aisles are wide, easy to navigate. The selection? It’s HUGE! Chicago has a reputation as a melting pot of global cultures, and I think Mariano’s does a good job of living up to that reputation by having such a wide variety of global cuisines and ethnic foods. It’s a bit like an Epcot for foodies. And their latest innovation is Mariano’s health key™ System, which simplifies the shopping experience and makes it easier to put healthier food in my cart.

Mariano's health key system #shop

With so many new food products coming on the market these days, and classic foods being recalibrated to make them healthier (e.g. gluten-free or no salt added), I’m reading food labels more than the newspaper on some days. And I read the paper everyday!

I used to be near-sighted, so reading labels wasn’t an issue. As I get older, so do my eyes — and now I have reading glasses in addition to glasses for distance and driving. But I’m always leaving my reading glasses next to my favorite chair, so I’m having to read food labels at arm’s length at the grocery store. But not with Mariano’s health key™ System, thankfully. The labels are bold, color-coded and have large text that make them easy to read. 

Mariano's health key™ System makes it easier to put healthier food in your cart #shop

Mariano’s health key™ System really does make grocery shopping easy.
The tags are big, brightly lit and have large text, so I can easily find healthier food options
– even when I forget my glasses!

If you’re like me, every now and then you need some new inspiration for dinner. I get Mariano’s weekly email newsletter that shares recipes and showcases local chefs, or I’ll go to the Community Page on their website to learn about in-store events and cooking demonstrations. For more information about Mariano’s health key™ System, visit the Mariano’s website or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

On my excursion to Mariano’s this week, I decided to try a south-of-the-board-inspired dish quite popular throughout the Southwest. I used to live in Houston and Tex-Mex “anything” was always a popular item on every restaurant’s menu. So I wanted to take some of my favorite ingredients (brown rice and ground turkey) and create a healthier version of a Tex-Mex Rice Bowl.

tex-mex rice bowl

Tex-Mex Rice Bowl

First, I made a salsa fresca, which is also known as pico de gallo, with fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic, sweet peppers, olive oil, lime juice and cilantro. I got all of my ingredients for salsa fresca in place (mise en place) and I was off-and-running.

salsa fresca mise en place #shop

This portion of the Tex-Mex Rice Bowl recipe, the prep for the salsa fresca, takes about 15 minutes of cutting and dicing. After that, the recipe goes quite fast.

I tend to prefer mildly spicy foods, so I’m using sweet peppers in this recipe. But if you like something with more fire, definitely swap out the sweet peppers for jalapeno peppers. Combine all of the salsa fresca ingredients in a large glass or ceramic bowl.

salsa fresca

Then set aside to let it marinate while you prepare the ground turkey and rice mixtures. Gather all of your ingredients and measure out the spices to make cooking a breeze:

tex mex rice bowl ingredients mise en place #shop

First you’ll cook the instant brown rice, following the package directions. Set aside.

In a large stock pot, heat the ground turkey over medium-high heat. Cook until done and stir to crumble. Stir in the water, chili powder, paprika, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper. Bring this to a simmer, then stir in the corn and black beans. Cook for about 2 minutes, then stir in the brown rice and cook for another 2 minutes.

Ladle the rice mixture into individual serving bowls. Top each bowl with salsa fresca and sprinkle with cilantro. I’ve found that when I have a large group or if your family has different levels of spice, heat they like that it’s best to let each individual add as much (or little) of the salsa fresca as they like to personalize their own Tex-Mex Rice Bowls. That way everybody gets what they want.

This Tex-Mex Rice Bowl recipe makes a large batch; enough for 8 to 10 people. If you have leftovers, freeze the turkey-rice mixture for up to 2 months in an airtight container. For any leftover salsa fresca, that will keep for only a few days in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Use leftover salsa alone or add to melted Cheddar cheese as a dip.

Tex-Mex Rice Bowl

Rating: 51

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Yield: about 8 to 10 servings

Tex-Mex Rice Bowl

This dish has many variations in texture, from the rice and beans to the corn and salsa fresca. Personally, I like to add a small dollop of creamy, cool sour cream on the top of a hot Tex-Mex rice bowl to help cleanse the palate from the spice.

Ingredients

For salsa fresca:
4 medium plum or vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
1 medium white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 sweet peppers, seeded (with ribs removed) and diced (substitute with jalapeno peppers, if desired)
1 tablespoon olive oil
fresh-squeezed juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
For Tex-Mex bowl:
1 pound lean ground turkey
16 ounces instant brown rice (about 4 cups, dry)
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups whole kernel corn
30 ounces black beans, rinsed and drained
4 teaspoons fresh cilantro, chopped

Instructions

Instructions for salsa fresca:

In a large glass or ceramic bowl, combine all ingredients and set aside to let it marinate.

Instructions for Tex-Mex rice bowl:

Cook instant brown rice according to the package directions; set aside.

Heat a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the ground turkey. Cook until done, stirring to crumble. Stir in water, chili powder, paprika, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper. Bring to a simmer.

Stir in corn and beans. Cook for 2 minutes. Stir in rice and cook for 2 minutes.

Scoop rice mixture into individual serving bowls. Top each bowl with salsa fresca and cilantro.

Notes

I would rate the level of spiciness for this recipe at medium. If you prefer a milder spice level, reduce the amount of chili powder and cumin. If you like a very spicy dish, substitute jalapeno peppers for the sweet peppers.

The majority of prep time for this dish is for the salsa fresca. You could also make the salsa fresca in advance and keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours.

https://bakedchicago.com/tex-mex-rice-bowl/