Quick Skillet Vegetarian Tacos

20170329_135414I had a really full day of hard core, nose in the books, studying today and needed something nutritious and filling, but really quick for lunch. I pulled from what I had in my pantry and fridge. Vegetarian tacos for the win!!

First things first, peel a sweet potato, cut into bite-size chunks and throw onto a sheet pan to roast. Add a little olive oil, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder and chili pepp!er and toss to coat. I used Ancho Chili Powder and oh man, the flavor this adds! Roast for 10-15 min or so at 400 degrees.

Open cans of corn, black beans (rinse well before adding). Chop a bell pepper (I used orange) and shallot (you want bite-size, not minces).

Saute the pepper & shallot. Add salt & pepper and let cook till just softened. Add the corn, black beans, garlic powder, chili powder & smoked paprika and let cook for a few minutes. I had some frozen green chilis that I just threw in and let melt in. Add the roasted sweet potato. I had a little bit of rice leftover from dinner the other night which I add and then I added a little chicken stock (you could easily use vegetable stock) to help reconstitute and soften the rice. Cook with the lid on a few minutes and taste for seasonings.

Put on your favorite tortillas and add cilantro and avocado. If you want a little kick add your favorite hot sauce. Spritz with some lime juice to add a nice bit of acid.

Back to the books for me!

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Poached Eggs … Non-Benedict

Since taking that cooking class a couple years ago where I learned how to poach an egg. Since then it was game on! It’s another thing I make whenever I am home in the mornings. They don’t take long to make and they are a good source of protein and the healthiest way to cook an egg. They are also a blank slate, you can go with just about any flavor palette. I almost always toast up an English muffin and then look to see what I have in the fridge. There is almost always turkey bacon, some sort of spinach or arugula and shallots. Sometimes I have fresh mushrooms, an avocado, tomatoes, a bell pepper and some fresh herbs. It’s a blank slate and goes with so many things!

Last week I had made something southwestern the night before and so I had some black beans, green chiles, an onion, a mix of spinach and arugula, taco sauce (a secret love) and fresh cilantro. Voila breakfast! I sauteed everything but the cilantro, added a little taco sauce … layered everything up and topped with fresh cilantro. Oh man! So good with the buttery richness of the runny egg yolk. SO GOOD!

Here are a few pictures of variations I have made starting with my southwest eggs non-benedict!

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Below is my classic – poached eggs on top of a mushroom, shallot and spinach saute and english muffin topped with fresh tomatoes. I often like to spread the english muffin with goat cheese:

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Below is poached eggs on top of fresh spinach, turkey bacon and a buttered english muffin:

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Below is a variation with goat cheese, avocado, sauteed shallots, spinach and chickpeas:

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Hot Sauce Side Note

I have a new found love … HOT SAUCE! I have never liked hot/spicy food. I like food that is flavorful and I never minded a little “kick”, but as my mom says, “I don’t want eating to become an athletic event”. Sometimes a little heat adds a needed component to a dish. A few months ago I had a hot sauce that was really smoky because it was recommended as a good paring with what I was eating. I tried just a little. It didn’t really have much heat, but it had a nice smoky flavor, so I really enjoyed it. Then I was at Chipotle and there was a similar hot sauce that was smoky and I thought I would try it. HOOKED! Ya’ll, this is the STUFF! I pretty much put it on whatever I can now. It has this amazing smokiness with that hot sauce tang. It has some heat, but not enough to be considered in the “athletic event” category. It goes particularly well on fish tacos, eggs and hollandaise. Yummmmmy! It’s my new go-to condiment!

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Chicken Burgers

Not much says summer like burgers on the grill! I mean what is better than a hot meat patty topped with fresh, crisp lettuce and a nice cold tomato, ketchup, mustard, mayo for you southern folk, dill relish or pickles, melty cheese for you dairy loving  peeps, a nice soft bun and my personal favorite avocado slices and a fried egg. That and a cold beer is just amazing! There are so many different types of burgers. So many different meats that can be used and flavor palates that a burger can take on. It can be whatever you want it to be. Classic or edgy … burgers are summer!

A recent doctor’s appointment says I need to lay off red meat and greasy burgers, among other things. No way I can just give up burgers, I LOVE them. It really has nothing to do with the fact that they are usually made out of beef, it’s the burger concept. So many toppings that can be personalized. I had to find an acceptable alternative, I wasn’t going to make it through the summer without them. My mom can’t eat red meat, so she makes turkey burgers and I had one she made recently and it was pretty good (I am not a fan of ground turkey, so that was the only thing I didn’t like about it, otherwise it was DELICIOUS). I thought I would see about using some ground chicken and see if I liked that better. Let me tell you … after a little experimentation … I am not going to miss beef burgers at all! These chicken burgers are a really healthy alternative and full of flavor! Even hubby loved them and doesn’t miss the beef aspect!

A word of caution, you have to be careful with ground chicken (& ground turkey for that matter), it will dry out quick and be kinda bland. This recipe has given me super flavorful and moist burgers. It’s a great base to add whatever flavor palate you want. Also, this recipe is heart healthy! 🙂

1 lb ground chicken breast
1/2 of a ripe avocado
1/2 of an onion
1 clove of garlic (2 cloves if you’re like me and love garlic)
1/4 – 1/2 cup bread crumbs
smoked paprika
salt/pepper to taste
fresh herbs when I have them

Throw the avocado, onion, garlic, breadcrumbs & salt & pepper in a food processor. Process until paste. Put the ground chicken and paste into a bowl and combine with your hands (seriously, hands are the best kitchen tools! ;). Pop the mixture back in the fridge for about 20 minutes b/c at this point it will be kinda sticky and loose. Form into burgers and cook on the grill for about 5-6 minutes per side.

Warm up a nice soft bun and top with your favorite things and enjoy! 🙂 My personal faves are avocado slices, ketchup, brown mustard, lettuce, tomato, goat cheese and occasionally a fried egg! 😉

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

Lately I have been trying to like quinoa. I know it is amazingly good for me and a healthier option than many of the carbs I love so much. The first time I tried quinoa was a few years ago and I really didn’t like it, it was pretty flavorless and the texture was not my favorite. I have since learned that it absorbs a lot of flavor and so it requires more seasoning than rice or pasta and that the texture is not as bad as I thought. I made some for a dinner recently and had quite a bit leftover (apparently a little also goes a long way). I was trying to go with a Mediterranean theme for dinner tonight and remembered growing up my mom really liked tabouleh (& I really disliked it b/c of the texture). Well, quinoa sorta reminds me of tabouleh in texture so I thought why not go that direction.

I have also been trying to eat more cooked fish (go figure, I will eat it raw, but really don’t care for it cooked). So we did a Mediterranean grilled fish, grilled green beans and the quinoa salad. Hubby said it was a very “earth muffin meal”. HA! I will still have to work on being able to eat entire filets of fish, but the rest was quite tasty. Even hubby liked the quinoa salad and if hubby liked it, we might just be on to something! This makes a great side to grilled chicken or fish and the flavor palatte is crisp and very summery!

Ingredients

2 cups of cooked quinoa
1 cucumber20150603_191400
1 shallot
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup kalamata olives
1 lemon
Feta or Goat Cheese Crumbles
Salt & Pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
Parsley, chopped

Cook the quinoa according to package directions. I like to cook mine in chicken broth (veggie broth would work too), just adds good depth of flavor.

Meanwhile, cut up the shallot and sauté in just a little olive oil. At the last minute throw in the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds to a minute. Not too long or it will burn. Remember to season your shallots with some salt and pepper. Don’t worry, the quinoa will be able to handle it and you want to layer your flavors. Set aside.

Peel the cucumber, cut in half crossways and then lengthwise. Take out the seeds and squishy part in the middle until you have half moons and slice just a little chunky. Set aside.

Cut the Kalamata olives in half crossways and set aside.

Once the quinoa has cooked and is cooled at least to room temperature. Add the cucumbers, shallots, tomatoes and olives. Stir to combine.

Add the chopped parsley, juice the lemon into the quinoa mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the cheese crumbles for each individual serving.

Semester of Cooking

One reason I’ve been a bit absent is that I’ve been taking a class that involved quite a bit of cooking this semester. Here are all the things I made this semester: (can’t believe it’s over already)

Dutch Apple Muffins
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Salad with Vinaigrette
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Creamy Broccoli Soup
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BBQ Steak w/Bread Crumb Topping
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Chicken Provencal
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Eggs Benedict
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Beef Chili

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Summer Refreshment

A couple years ago my good friend Paula and I and another friend were at a restaurant in Denver and had a DELIGHTFUL drink that was a sorta cucumber, lemonade martini (I can’t remember what they called it). It was SO REFRESHING and I am not typically a fan of lemonade. It was cool and smooth and lemony and amazing!

Well, the weather has turned warm here in North Carolina (I forgot how early the warm weather arrives … and oh the pollen). It was an unusually hot day for the beginning of April and the air conditioning was not working, we were looking for ways to stay cool and I remembered that lemonade drink. I started throwing things in a pitcher and it worked!

I will tell you, the secret is “Rain Cucumber Vodka”. It has to be this brand … other brands do not quite have as much cucumber flavor. I also cut up some cucumber slices and let them just sit in the drink while it chilled in the fridge … it helps, really!

Rain Cucumber Vodka
Limoncello (this is kinda sweet as well as lemony)
Seltzer Water (not tonic water)
Fresh Lemons
Cucumber Slices
Simple Syrup (if you don’t prefer too much lemony tang and like a sweeter lemonade)
Fresh Basil (it sounds odd, but it goes and makes it DELICOUS)
Ice Cubes

Ok, put a little ice, tear a bunch of basil leaves (& add the simple syrup if you want) and a few cucumber slices. Muddle this together for a few minutes to release the oils of the basil. Squeeze in about 3 lemons, add about 1/2 a cup of the cucumber vodka and about 1/4 cup of limoncello. Stir, taste. Adjust accordingly to how much more cucumber or lemon or sweet you want to taste. We like ours lemony and tangy and less sweet so I omitted the simple syrup completely.

The limoncello gives a good lemon intensity, but is sweet so won’t help much with the tang.

Then add the seltzer water for a little fizz and to help balance it all out. Tear in some more basil leaves and add some lemon and cucumber slices. It makes for a really pretty drink and oh, so refreshing on a hot day!

Hispanic Side of Life

Hubby and I were recently watching a cooking show in which the cook made a queso fundido. THEN … we went to a local Latin restaurant and that was an item on their menu. It was a sign, it was time to make it ourselves. Also at that same Latin restaurant we had a salsa that was made with morita chiles. They are a smoky chile that smell amazing when you open the package and provide a delightful smoky flavor to anything you add them to. Hubby and I decided it was time to explore the Hispanic food side of life (more than just ground beef and a taco seasoning mix). This is the first time I have really tried to make salsa so it was definitely experimenting. Off we went to the local Hispanic market. International markets are one of my favorite places … I have more experience with Hispanic and Asian markets. There are so many fun products for discovery and culinary adventures.

I have a bit of an issue with dairy, so the challenge became how to make a dairy free queso fundido, since it is pretty much just dairy (yummy, melty cheese). Well, we have recently discovered a dairy free cheese made by Daiya. We tried the mozzarella style (there is also a “cheddar style” that we have yet to try). Well, it probably was not the best use of this product … the taste was definitely different (probably easily hidden in something like a lasagna), but on it’s own you will notice the flavor difference. It will take some getting used to. This is my first experiment with a dairy free cheese, so we may have to continue the experimenting and flavor combinations. I will say though, it melted like a perfect mozzarella.

Lately I have become infatuated with cast iron cooking. Queso fundido seemed to be the perfect way to use cast iron cookware. I picked up a little skillet at TJMax for $9. It was not pre-seasoned so I had to do that first, but I had a lazy weekend ahead of me with nothing better to do.

    Queso Fundido with Chorizo

Queso Fresco (if you want non-dairy, try “Daiya Mozzerella Style”) Cheese (grated)
Pork Chorizo (you can find spicy or mild)

Turn the chorizo out of the casing into a cast iron skillet. Cook on medium heat until it resembles ground beef. It will not brown like ground beef, so once it gets to a state of crumbles, it’s done. If it’s not completely done, it’s ok. It’s going to cook more in the over with the cheese.

Take your grated cheese, sprinkle into a thick’ish layer in the bottom of another cast iron skillet.
Layer the chorizo on top of the cheese, also in a thick’ish layer.
Put another layer of grated cheese on top of the chorizo.
Cook at 400 degrees until the cheese is bubbling and slightly browned.

    Morita Tomatillo Salsa

Dried Morita Chiles (3-4)
3-4 Tomatillos
Salt/Pepper
Water (or chicken stock) – 1/4 – 1/2 cup?
1 tsp Cumin

Put the morita chiles in boiling water and put the lid on … let the chiles reconstitute, 20-30 minutes.
Husk the tomatillos and wash the stickyness off.
Char the tomatillos in a cast iron skillet (or open flame if you have a gas stove).
Slice in half and throw in a blender
Once the chiles are reconstituted, slice open and clean out the seeds then throw in the blender (leave the seeds if you like it HOT).
Add a little water until the salsa loosens up some.
Pour the salsa into a small pot and heat over low heat until just warmed through.

Heat some tortillas until they are soft. Wrap the queso fundido and salsa inside the softened tortillas. ENJOY!
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Perfect for Summer

One week it’s snowing and the next it’s sunny and 80’ish … which is HOT for me. I am not a fan of hot weather … warm is ok (lets define “warm” as no more than 75 degrees), hot is NOT. When it’s hot I always say I go from one air conditioned unit to another. It’s the only way to survive. Well, not the ONLY way … the other way is to eat cool summery foods! I don’t have as large a repertoire of summery foods, but the ones I do have, I make quite a bit and they are quick and easy and do not require heating up the kitchen. The following recipe is one that we eat often and seems to go with so much and is so refreshing (GREAT with hamburgers fresh off the grill). Also, I could eat cucumbers by the pound (seriously, ask my father-in-law, we “fight” over them when we are together). So whatever way I can find to incorporate them into dishes, I do! 😉

Cucumber and Mozzerella “Salad”

Ingredients
2 Cucumbers (peeled)
Cherry Tomatoes
Fresh Mozzerella block
Garlic Powder
Salt/Pepper
Parsley

Cut each cucumber in half and then each half in half again (quarter spears). Slice each spear into bite size chunks. (How do you like my technical terminology? Ha!!) Wash the cherry tomatoes and cut in half. Cut the mozzarella into bite-size cubes. Put all these into one bowl and add a little garlic powder, salt and pepper. Taste as you go and don’t over season. Sometimes hubby likes it when I add just a tad of balsamic vinegar.

*Note* Penzeys has a garlic salt that is really perfect for this.

GF Cinnamon Baked Doughnuts

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i don’t have a big sweet tooth (i think my hubby might argue that i don’t have one at all ;). HOWEVER, there are rare times when i get a craving for something like cake or a cupcake or a doughnut. when we lived in north carolina (& before i had to go gf) we would just go down to our local krispy kreme to satisfy the craving. these days, that is not as easy to do since a) krispy kreme’s are not gf & b) there are very few bakeries that make gf doughnuts & are open at odd hours when cravings occur. hubby & i were watching food network this morning and barefoot contessa was making doughnuts from scratch. they looked amazing & from the look on hubby’s face & the drool eminating from his mouth, i knew the thought was now planted … we had to have doughnuts today at somepoint! it looked like it would be easy to adapt the recipe to gf and thus i began formulating the plan! they turned out pretty good & the texture is pretty good. krispy kreme’s they are not … but they are definitely a good substitute.

my only disclaimer is that i had to go buy a doughnut pan for this one. it was cheap, under $11 at one of our local kitchen stores and well worth the purchase as i can predict this to be something we will be making many variations on (hubby has already suggested chocolate doughnuts).

1 1/2 cups gf all-purpose baking flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1 1/2 cups sugar (i would add just a bit less sugar, they are very sweet and when you add the topping for more sweetness it seemed a bit overpowering to me, however, hubby liked all the sweet. i guess it just depends on how much of a sweet tooth you have.)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons xantham gum

1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
1 1/4 cups whole milk (i have not baked with it, but i suppose you could substitute almond or rice milk to make this dairy free)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the topping:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray 2 doughnut pans well.

Into a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, melted butter, and vanilla. Stir the wet mixture into the dry ingredients until just combined.

Spoon the batter into the baking pans, filling each one a little more than three-quarters full. Bake for 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then tap the doughnuts out onto a sheet pan.

For the topping, melt the 8 tablespoons of butter in an 8-inch saute pan. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Dip each doughnut first in the butter and then in the cinnamon sugar, either on one side or both sides.

(adapted from barefoot contessa cinnamon baked doughnuts)