Archive for ‘Dinner’

May 3, 2012

Tacos with Black Bean, Corn and Avocado Salsa

Tacos! They make for a quick dinner and they’re perfect for lunch the next day. The kids thought I was a rockstar for serving crunchy tacos. Meanwhile, I was ecstatic because it was the world’s easiest meal. I haven’t made hard tacos before, because I try to stay away from corn taco shells or tortillas if they’re not organic. You know, that whole issue with all corn being genetically modified? Okay, I won’t hop on my soapbox. But the good news is that at Trader Joe’s I found taco shells made from organic stoneground yellow corn. The store also carries a taco seasoning mix free of monosodium glutamate and partially hydrogenated oils.

Shake the seasoning mix on a pound of ground turkey, beef, bison or chicken, along with some chopped onions and tomatoes, and simmer for about 10minutes and you’re done! The shells need to be crisped in the toaster oven for just  a few minutes. Scoop some ground meat into each shell and top with grated cheese, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, etc. The kids loved creating their own.

As a side, I made a black bean, corn and avocado salsa. Since I only had 1 can of black beans, I added 1 can of pinto beans, too. Then, I added a bag of thawed frozen corn, 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, 4 chopped tomatoes and 1/2 cup chopped red onion. I tossed the salsa in a dressing made from lime juice, olive oil and cumin. Lastly, I folded in some diced avocado (from 2 small avocados).

When I packed it for S’s lunch the next day, I separated all the ingredients so the tacos wouldn’t get soggy. S said it was fun to build her own taco at school.

Now, it’s time to go make myself a margarita!

** For a vegetarian option, you could fill the taco shells with the black bean, corn and avocado salsa.

April 23, 2012

Italian Wedding Soup

I’ve always loved a piping-hot bowl of Italian Wedding Soup, but I had never found the right recipe. Until now. I scoured the Web and combined a little bit of this one with a little bit of that one, added a few more vegetables and voila—it was perfection. Everyone had seconds and asked me to make it again.

I started by sauteeing a container of mirepoix from Trader Joe’s, which is basically chopped carrots, onions and celery, in olive oil. Pre-chopped vegetables for a good stock is just what I needed on a rushed day. Then, I added 8 cups of low-sodium chicken broth, plus 1 can of cannellini beans and a the heel of a wedge of Parmesan cheese. I let it simmer for a about 15 minutes and then I added the meatballs.

For the meatballs, I combined:

1 lb. of lean ground beef

1/2 lb. ground mild Italian sausage

1 small onion, chopped

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried oregano

2  tsp minced garlic

1 egg

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup bread crumbs (leave out if you’re GF)

I shaped them into mini meatballs and dropped them into the simmering broth until they were cooked through. Lastly, I turned off the heat and stirred in a bag of baby spinach. You could substitute endive or Swiss chard, but you’d have to increase your cooking time. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper.

April 10, 2012

Beet and Fennel Soup with Kefir

After a weeklong trip to New York City, I come home to find my pantry completely barren and my refrigerator empty except for a bin full of beets and fennel. They’re the same beets and fennel I was avoiding before I left for spring break. But now they’re staring at me and saying, “Cook us already. Make something different. Cook us together if you have to, and kill two vegetables with one pot.”

I quickly Google “beet and fennel” and this beautiful soup from Epicurious pops up. I’m sold. Plus, I know I need to detox after a week of chicken and duck pate, delectable macarons in every flavor imaginable, homemade Nutter Butters from the famous Bouchon Bakery and potstickers from a hole-in-the-wall in Chinatown. Not to mention: too many glasses of wine.

I start chopping an onion, and dicing the beets and fennel bulb into 1/2-inch cubes. Since I’m almost drowning in root vegetables, I decide to double the recipe and make 8 cups of soup. First, I sauté the onions, fennel and fennel seeds in olive oil. After 5 to 8 minutes, I add the beets and low-sodium chicken broth. It all simmers for 20 minutes in a covered pot. Now that the beets are tender, I drop in my immersion blender and let it do its magic. Ahhh, puree perfection. Lastly, I whisk in some unflavored kefir and season the pink soup with a little salt and pepper. Not only is the soup the prettiest I’ve ever made, it’s also delicious. It has just the right amount of tang, thanks to the kefir, and it ends with a nice licorice note because of the fennel. I have two bowls for lunch and C licks his bowl clean, telling me he also wants it for dinner. How could I not oblige? But truth be told: S turned her nose up at it after a few spoonfuls.

Even after doubling the recipe, I still have two fennel bulbs and eight beets in my fridge. I see more pink soup in my future.

CLICK HERE for the recipe.

March 20, 2012

Turkey and Bean Chili

Brrrrr! It’s cold—okay, at least for San Diego it is. That means soups, stews and the crockpot. And plenty of leftovers. I was craving chili yesterday, but a slightly lighter version of one, so I decided on ground turkey. I had stray vegetables from my CSA, such as a couple zucchinis and some collard greens, so I decided to toss them in my chili.The recipe comes to me from my neighbor and friend, S. This recipe is very easy and quick, perfect for those evenings you really don’t feel like cooking. You can pretty much throw in whatever you have on hand, so it’s a great way to get rid of those lingering items in your fridge.

I sautéed ground turkey, chopped onions, peppers and garlic in a big pot with olive oil. After about 7 minutes, I added three cans of beans (two red kidney and one great northern), chopped tomatoes (I like the ones from Pomi that come in a box), 10 oz. strained tomatoes, 6 oz. tomato paste, a handful of chopped olives and all my chili spices— 2 TB chili powder, 2 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp dried basil and a pinch of cayenne for a little kick. Season with salt and pepper. I  brought it back to a boil and then added two zucchinis, sliced, and thin ribbons of collard greens, just the leaves. After 20 minutes of simmering, dinner was done! I served it with cornbread and shredded cheese, scallions and Greek yogurt. With all the veggies thrown in, it was the perfect one-pot meal.

March 14, 2012

Pork + Candy = Bliss!

Yes, candied pork. It sounds obscene, doesn’t it? One bite and I guarantee you’ll be moaning in ecstasy. This recipe came to me from my brother, who found it at TastingTable.com. What could be better than combining pork with brown sugar and bourbon? But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, the slab of pork shoulder is rubbed with a mixture of spices, including cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and slow-roasted for many hours (I cooked mine for 6), until it’s tender and falling apart. Then, you brush a mixture of brown sugar and bourbon over the the meat and roast it again until it turns into a sweet and spicy candied crust. Break the pork into chunks and eat like a cave man.

This is a straightforward recipe that doesn’t require much skill. What it needs is time to slow-roast to ensure the meat will melt in your mouth. Making this was virtually a comedy of errors at my house. I had prepped the shoulder for roasting before we had left for church, so it could cook while we were away. Right before I put the pork in the oven, my husband came through the kitchen and saw that the oven was on but nothing was in it. So, he turned it off. On my way out the door, I slipped the roast in the oven, not noticing the oven had been turned off. Three hours later after church, lunch and shopping, as we’re driving home I mention how great the house must smell because of the pork in the oven. To which my husband responded, “Uh, what? I turned the oven off because nothing was in it.”

I tell you, this pig did not want to be eaten. When I got home, I immediately turned the oven on and started roasting the pork. But then, my 3-year-old came along behind me and pulled the lever for the cleaning lock. Thankfully, my oven didn’t go into nuclear mode and clean itself. However, it did shut off the heat. And it took my a little over an hour for me to realize what had happened. When we finally had the candied pork for dinner the following day, the kids went crazy. I had never seen my son eat with such zeal. Both kids made sure they had the perfect ratio of meat to candy before taking each bite.

For S’s lunch I made a couple of pulled-pork sliders. Even after that, I still have about 2 pounds of meat left. It’s time to get creative. Any ideas?

March 7, 2012

Corn and Egg Flower Soup

My mom used to make this corn and egg flower soup for me when I was growing up. It would show up on the dinner table on hectic evenings and when someone was feeling under the weather. Although I loved it, I never tried making this soup. But then, a chilly day drew out the memory of sweet-savory corn and egg soup from the far reaches of my mind. I had to have it. As a child, I never knew the simplicity of the soup. All I knew was that it was tasty and warm, and made me feel like I was snuggling with my favorite blanket.

I have recollections of my mom over a hot stove, stirring creamed corn into simmering chicken broth. Then, she would add chopped ham and occasionally some peas. Lastly, she would turn off the heat and mix in some lightly beaten eggs. With a few gentle, swift strokes, the eggs would turn into beautiful flower petals. Really, this recipe is Betty-Crocker simple, but it yields very satisfying results. My mom used to garnish the soup with chopped scallions and white pepper, but I leave out the onions because the kids don’t like it. However, those scallions would have brightened up the picture some.

S asked me last night: “How come you’ve never made this before?”

Just to be clear, this beats the socks off the bland egg drop soup you find at virtually every Chinese-American restaurant.

Corn and Egg Flower Soup

Ingredients

6 cups chicken broth, homemade or low-sodium

2 cans cream-style corn

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp sesame oil

2 tsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry (optional)

salt and black or white pepper, to taste

3/4 cup deli-style ham, thinly sliced

3 – 4 TB cornstarch, dissolved in 1/4 cup water (more cornstarch makes for a thicker soup)

3 eggs, lightly beaten (or you could just use the egg whites)

3 green onions, finely chopped for garnish

Method:

1. Bring chicken stock to a boil. Stir in creamed corn and simmer for another 3 minutes.

2. Stir in the ham, sugar, sesame oil, rice wine or sherry and salt and pepper. Return to a simmer for another couple of minutes, bringing it back to a boil.

3. Stir the cornstarch-water mixture until well mixed and then pour into the boiling soup. Stir soup until it thickens. Turn off heat.

4. Pour the lightly beaten eggs into the soup and stir gently but quickly until they form thin shreds.

5. Garnish with scallions.

February 28, 2012

Spaghetti Squash with Goat Cheese and Parsley

I have a confession to make: the spaghetti squash, which came from my CSA, for this recipe must have sat on my countertop for two months. Secretly, I was hoping it would go bad, so I wouldn’t have to figure out what to do with it. But I realized after two months that it was wishful thinking.

I scrounged through a vegetarian cookbook and realized that I could roast the squash without cutting it first. When I cooked spaghetti squash last year, I cut it in half lengthwise and then roasted it in the oven with the fleshy side down. But getting a knife through the uncooked squash was a huge challenge—one I didn’t want to endure again. So, this time, I poked holes throughout the squash with a fork and put it in the oven to roast at 375 degrees for an hour. After that, it was almost effortless to slice the squash in half. After scraping out the seeds, I dragged a fork through the flesh, pulling the strands apart. Then, I simply tossed it with a few tablespoons of butter, 1 cup of goat cheese, a handful of chopped parsley and some salt and pepper. My squash was so big it must have made 12 cups of spaghetti squash.

Surprisingly, the kids more than tolerated it. S said she liked it, but didn’t love it. Meanwhile, C gobbled his up quickly. But the truth is, C saw the squash as a vehicle for goat cheese, one of his favorites. Although I served it for dinner, I had plenty left over the next day. I decided to pack it in S’s lunch with some deli turkey on the side. It tastes fine at room temperature.  As for me, I warmed up the leftovers and ate it with an over-easy egg for a low-carb breakfast. That runny yolk made the squash unbelievably rich and delicious.

February 24, 2012

Chickpea, Spinach and Cauliflower Curry

I was craving a hearty vegetarian meal last night, so I decided to tinker with a few chickpea and spinach curry recipes. Both my kids like Indian food (But I want them to like it more!), so I thought this was a good way to get them used to more spices, without setting their lips and tongue on fire. Some of the recipes called for tomatoes, while others relied on a cucumber yogurt accompaniment for acidity. I decided to go with the tomatoes, since I’m a big fan of one-pot meals.

Somewhat to my surprise, the kids loved it. S had three servings and asked for it for lunch today. Everyone agreed it was a dish I should make again. Yay! Simple pleasures.

Unfortunately, I didn’t measure any of the ingredients or spices last night, so I’m not sure I can replicate the dish. I basically kept adding spices until I felt that it had enough flavor. I started by sautéing one large chopped onion with a tablespoon each of minced garlic and ginger. Then I added roughly 2 to 3 teaspoons of ground cumin and ground coriander, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 2 teaspoons curry powder and a fat pinch of salt. What I wish I had was some garam masala. But last night I had to make do without it. Once the spices became fragrant, I added a can of drained chickpeas, florets from a small head of cauliflower, a 16 oz. bag of thawed frozen spinach and 1 to 1 1/2 cups of diced tomatoes. I let it simmer for about 10 – 15 minutes, until all the flavors blended and there was a nice thick consistency. Serve it over rice with a little chopped cilantro over the top.

This is a great recipe when you’re low on fresh produce. All you need is an onion and cauliflower. You could also make it without the cauliflower.

Note to reader and self:  Indian food really does not photograph well.

February 23, 2012

Quinoa Salad with Grilled Chicken

Leftovers! I love leftovers, because it makes packing lunch a cinch. Last night’s quinoa salad and grilled chicken went straight from my Pyrex dish in the fridge into S’s LunchBots container.

Quinoa is a high-protein, gluten-free grain (actually, a seed) that’s easy to make and very versatile. I had a plethora of cucumbers and grape tomatoes, so I decided to go Greek with the quinoa salad. I like to make quinoa in my rice cooker because it’s perfect every time and I don’t have to think about it once I hit “Cook.” After letting it cool, I tossed it with finely chopped cucumbers, halved cherry tomatoes, minced flat-leaf parsley and red onion, chopped and pitted Kalamata olives, and crumbled feta. Then I made a vinaigrette with olive oil, lemon juice, crushed garlic and dried oregano. I gently mixed it all together and let it chill in the fridge, while I grilled chicken breasts that were marinated in pesto.

Along with the quinoa salad, I packed some carrots, fruit and blue corn chips.  All done and all gluten-free.

February 21, 2012

Zucchini Patties with Feta

I’m always looking for ways to use up zucchinis, especially in the summer when they’re in season, so when I came across this recipe I had to try it. I couldn’t wait for the summer. And I’m glad I did, because C ate three in a sitting. S was lukewarm on them, telling me she prefers spinach patties. Oh, well. You can’t please everyone all of the time.

I bought so many zucchinis that I ended up doubling the Epicurious recipe.  To make it gluten-free, I simply substituted Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Baking Flour for the regular wheat flour. Other than that, it calls for eggs, feta cheese, green onions (which I subbed with sautéed white onions and garlic) and fresh parsley and dill. I left out the dill, because I wasn’t sure the kids would like it. Instead, I minced and stirred it into the Greek yogurt dipping sauce that accompanies the zucchini cakes. As it turns out, the kids loved the dill in the yogurt. Next time, I’ll definitely mix it into the patties. I may also try it with Parmesan Reggiano or Pecorino Romano, instead of the feta.

We had them as side dish with dinner, and the next morning C asked for them for breakfast. Even though S thought they were just meh, I packed them in her lunch. I froze the rest, so I could have an easy, healthy snack on hand.

CLICK HERE for the Zucchini Patties with Feta recipe.

 

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