March Favorites: What I dug over the last month

I'm a tad behind on my March Favorites...let's just say I've been a busy girl. But March was a fantastic month, especially foodwise. I tried out some new recipes and cooked with new ingredients...and I hope that you are all reaping the benefits of my kitchen testing!

Slow Cooker
Though slow cookers are traditionally known for their winter warming qualities, I used mine fairly sparingly this past winter, other than a couple of chili batches. Instead, I broke out the big guns twice in March for some slow cooked, tender meat. Between my Spring dinner party beef brisket cooked in V8 and post-St. Patty's Day corned beef braised in amber ale, the ol' Crockpot produced two fabulous meals that are heading over to the permanent collection.

All Things Irish
I know, I've raved about this a lot, but that's because both of these recipes were just that good. Irish Car Bomb cupcakes and Irish Soda Bread...two beyond fab recipes that I highly recommend you giving a whirl. In fact, TAA reader and friend Danielle, gave these cupcakes a whirl for a family birthday party a few weeks back and shared her awesome photo (above), which admittedly is making me hungry as we speak. Didn't she do an amazing job?

Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Liquid Dish Soap
You might call me a big dork, but I guess when you get to be a certain age, you can really learn to appreciate the value of a good cleaning product. Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Liquid Dish Soap in all of its glory is enough to make me actually enjoy washing dishes. It's all natural, and unlike a lot of all natural cleaners, it actually cleans! And once you get used to the delightful natural scent, it's really enough to make you never go back to amonia-filled cleaners again. In fact, we're in the process of switching over all cleaning products to be au natural...and yes, Mrs. Meyer's will be making major appearances in all rooms in the house. I like Lemon Verbena, but other natural scents like Basil and Gardenia are great too.

Soy milk
No, I'm not turning crunchy, but after Lauren (aka super friend and Pizza Tour pal) turned me on to the Starbucks Soy Misto (more to come on that next week from the turner on-er), I've just been hooked on the subtly sweet flavor of vanilla soy milk in my coffee. Though my heart still belongs to the Coffee-mate Italian Sweet Cream, Silk soy milk provides a nice flavor change up - and one that I just can't get enough of.

A&P's Greenway Line

I know, a lot of au naturals this month. I discovered the Greenway line of products at my local grocery store a few weeks ago. What is Greenway? It's A&P's private label brand of goods that includes no harmful pesticides, chemicals or artificial fertilizers. I had always noticed the chicken (which, btw, tastes way more delicious than regular old Perdue), but with an organic eye in mind lately, I realized that Greenway can be found in almost every food category in the store. From baby carrots and meats to low-sodium chicken broth and brown eggs, Greenway kicks organic into gear with affordable options for the seasoned grocery shopper.

So there you have it. A wrap up of my favorite foodie things in March. Did you discover any new treats over the last month? A new restaurant? A fun grocery store item? Please do share since TAA is always on the lookout for new and delicious things!

Psst...love the monthly faves? Check out Snickerdoodle Muffins, Gorgonzola Fig Crostini, Marscarpone Cheese and even more cupcakes from January and February!

When Bad Dishes Happen to Good People: Black Bean Soup

I know. It seems like every recipe in TAA kitchen is a winner. After all, when Snickerdoodle Muffins, Key Lime in the Coconut Cupcakes and Butternut Squash Soup come out of it, I may give off the illusion that things never go awry and that every recipe is pure tasting perfection. The reality is that some recipes are...how do you say...duds. I hate to admit it, and I hate to point fingers, but sometimes for any number of reasons, a recipe just doesn't get 'er done. And let's just not even get into mishaps beyond recipe duds. For today, we'll stick with Black Bean Soup. A recipe that seemingly had all the right moves; red onions, bell peppers, spices. But after a 3 hour bath in the slow cooker, it just tasted...bland. There was nothing to it. Even after continuously adding kosher salt (the cure all to just about everything), it didn't change the flavor...at all. Though this was a couple of weeks ago, I remain baffled to this very day. After all, the early ingredients in the recipe looked like this:
And when it looks this pretty, how could it go so wrong?
I refuse to blame this little baby, which has brought many a mean soup and chili over the last year.
After some restrospective investigation, I realized it could be a number of things:
1. I have never cooked with dried beans before. Typically, I'm a from-the-can kind of girl. Perhaps I did not cook the soup long enough?
2. Perhaps it just needed a serious bump up in the spice department
3. The recipe called for pureeing some of the soup and then mixing it back in. Though the wall got a good splattering of black bean juice, that aside, I thought I had done it as instructed. Perhaps I should have pureed more?
I could go on and on. I'm just still baffled by what went wrong, since the recipe seemed to get glowing reviews and I could swear that I followed it line by line. Has this happened to you before? On any dish in your culinary past? Did you uncover the mystery of what went wrong? Give me some love by sharing your tales of woe...