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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Farro Salad

On the days I am off work, I need to make the most of my time at home … and today was no different. I had a good bit of reading, homework and 2 quizzes I needed to do, in addition to grocery shopping, laundry, etc. I also wanted to make sure it was nutritious and would help fuel me for the rest of the day.

When I am home I try to be very intentional about eating really healthy and incorporating as many fruits and veggies as I can. Since I am home and have access to my kitchen (refrigerator, oven, stove, etc.), I can also be a little creative (as opposed to just a quick sandwich).

I had heard the many benefits of farro, but had a hard time finding it at my local grocery stores and had not tried it yet. Today was the day! I finally found it and thought since I was home I would whip up a little farro salad. Really filling and tasty! It’s also something that will store well and I can eat on for a couple days while I am home cranking away on homework. Seriously worth a try! It’s like a nuttier, heartier, more firm rice.

This is my Mediterranean farro salad (I have made a similar salad with orzo) with a twist that is an unusual ingredient, but works so well with all the other components.

1 cup farro (cook according to package directions)
1/2 cucumber (unpeeled, all the nutrition is in the skin)
1/2 red bell pepper (could also use yellow or orange)
1 small shallot (could use a red onion as well)
1/2 pint strawberries
1/2 cup spinach (I also love arugula in this)
1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives (halved)
1/2-3/4 cup Greek dressing
Feta or goat cheese crumbled

Dice up the cucumber, bell pepper and strawberries into the same sizes (I did a small’ish dice). Cut up the shallot pretty small (mine was much smaller than the other veggies, no one likes biting into a hug hunk of onion).

Once the farro is cooked, make sure it is strained (you do not want any residual liquid). Let cool a few minutes (you don’t want rubbery cucumbers). I stuck mine in the fridge for about 5 minutes. Add the shallots, bell pepper, olives and spinach (the spinach will slightly wilt). Mix up well. Once it is cooled more, add the cucumbers and  strawberries. Add Greek dressing and combine well. Add feta or goat cheese. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Serve and enjoy!

It would be delicious with some grilled shrimp, salmon or chicken!

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Country Retreat

My mother-in-law has a couple dear friends that are like sisters. These are the kinds of friends that have seen many joys and sorrows together and have walked through many seasons of life side-by-side. Their children grew up together and the three of them have remained friends all these years (most of the “kids” are now in their late-20s and early 30s). Every few months they do an overnight together and rotate houses. Two of the ladies live “in town” and when they come out to my in-laws they call it a “country retreat”. They lay around the house and relax together, do a LOT of gabbing, watch movies, eat and just enjoy each others company.

This past weekend was a “country retreat” weekend and they came and stayed the whole weekend instead of just one night. I had been itching to recreate parts of a meal my mom made at Christmas as well as creme brulee (helllloooo birthday toy … err I mean torch) and they indulged me. I got to let the creative juices flow and had so much fun doing it! (My husband and father-in-law got to partake and enjoyed the creativity as well, which they didn’t mind)

The menu for the weekend was:
Beef Wellington with Brown Mustard & Horseradish Sauce
Haricot Vert Bundles Wrapped in Prosciutto Brushed with Herb Oil
Dinner Rolls
Crème Brulee with Berry Compote (I will save this for another post)

The recipe for the Beef Wellingtons is ridiculously long so I will just link to it. It’s a little time consuming and finicky, but oh man does it yield an amazing result that will not disappoint. Check it out here!

I will add that I bought a Boar’s Head brown mustard with horseradish thing to go with it and just added some Penzey’s Fines Herbs to help mellow it just a tad. It was the perfect bite to counter the richness of the meat and pastry.

Haricot Vert Bundles Wrapped in Prosciutto with Herb Oil (2 bundles per person)
3 8 oz bags of fresh haricot verts (the smaller French green beans work much better for this)HaricotVertBundles
Prosciutto (verrrrrry thinly sliced)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped chives
2 tbsp fresh basil paste
2 tsp fresh thyme (chopped)
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

Chop the parsley, thyme and chives pretty finely. Put all in a bowl and add a pinch of salt and a couple grinds of black pepper. Be careful on the salt because the prosciutto is salty.
Slice the slices of prosciutto in half lengthwise.
Blanch the haricot verts and then plunge quickly into an ice bath to stop the cooking. You are going to roast them later, so they don’t need to cook long just get that bright green color.
Make sure the haricot verts are dried very well before starting.
Take about 10 haricot verts and wrap with a strip of prosciutto as many times as it will go around. Lay seam side down on a baking sheet.
Continue until you have made it through the all the haricot verts and prosciutto. I was able to get 2 strips per slice of prosciutto and made 12 bundles total.
Brush with the herb oil on all sides and roast in the oven at 350 for about 10 minutes. We like our veggies not mushy, so we cooked enough to get them to crisp tender and a little crisp on the prosciutto.

Momma’s Fried Okra

I have a parent from New England and a parent from the Midwest. My childhood was sprinkled with the cuisine’s from these two very different regions. Fantastic seafood (which I did not appreciate AT ALL as a kid, but now wish I had) and simple, hearty Midwestern (& great food with Hispanic flares) fare. And both love the cuisine from the other region. Today’s post comes from the Midwestern side. Growing up, I ate just about every vegetable I was served and loved them, still do. One of my absolute favorites have always been okra. I’ve been eating okra as long as I can remember. Holidays almost always meant pickled okra (yes, all Ledermans consume pickled okra at a probably alarming rate to outsiders). We also ate a lot of was fried okra and I’ve had it a lot of other places (if we visit a restaurant that has it, I try it) and I have yet to have any as good as my moms’. She tosses it in cornmeal that has been seasoned and pan fries it. We almost always had it with burgers and roasted potatoes. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Momma’s Fried Okra

Ingredients
1 bag frozen okra pieces/slices
2 cups stoneground cornmeal
1 tbsp. garlic powder
Kosher salt
Cracked black pepper
Olive oil

Directions
Add cornmeal, garlic, salt & pepper to a bowl or something like a pie dish. Mix with fork, taste to make sure properly salted.
Okra should be slightly defrosted, not all the way.
Heat skillet, add olive oil to cover bottom. Let heat a minute, should sizzle when adding okra.
Toss a handful of okra in the cornmeal mixture and coat. Gently toss with fingers to remove excess cornmeal.
Gently place 1 batch in hot oil, don’t mess with it.
Cook 8-10 minutes until just brown on one side.
Use a spatula to turn and cook until just brown on the other side.
Remove to plate covered with paper towels.
Enjoy!!

Note: I made this last night with bbq pulled pork sandwiches and mac&cheese. Fried okra was the perfect pairing with those!

garlic, lemon & dill grilled chicken with garlic sauteed spinach

warm weather (ok, ok … HOT) has arrived here in the western united states (& everywhere). one of the hardest things for me is to come up with summer dinner ideas that don’t involve a salad. i love hearty meals, but when it’s hot i do not want to eat something heavy or heat up the kitchen making it. the solution … grilling!! we love to grill all summer (well, we grill all year long ;), it keeps the house from getting hot and makes for wonderfully flavorful food! and you can grill just about everything! we do! grilling is also a great way to make a pretty quick dinner. throw something in a simple marinate for 30 minutes (or several hours) & throw it on the grill. you will soon have a delicious dinner that has kept the kitchen cool and provided a filling, but light summer meal.

tonight’s dinner was no exception. i needed something fairly quick, delicious and nutritious. voila! quick throw-together marinade, add a side and there you have it … dinner!

Grilled Garlic/Lemon/Dill Chicken

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 lemons*
1-2 tsps dill (amount depends on your like of the flavor of dill)
2 large garlic cloves, sliced
1 tbsp fresh cracked black pepper
1 tbsp citrus champagne vinegar
olive oil

Put garlic slices, dill, cracked black pepper, vinegar, squeeze juice from 1.5 lemons into bowl. Whisk olive oil into other ingrediants. Add chicken breasts and marinate for 30 minutes to 3 hours in the fridge. Let meat stand for a few minutes before putting it on the grill.

Garlic Sauteed Spinach

2 bags fresh spinach
1 lemon
2 cloves garlic sliced
olive oil
salt & pepper

Heat olive oil in large saute’ pan on med-low. Add garlic slices. Do not turn the heat up to high or garlic will brown to quickly and turn bitter. Let garlic cook slowly flavoring oil for few minutes. Once oil has been flavored by the garlic dump in the spinach and turn constantly with tongs until spinach has wilted a bit. Once wilted, take off the heat and put in a serving bowl. If spinach cooks too much it will turn slimey.

Enjoy!

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* Quick foot note … if you are finding that your lemons, limes or oranges do not want to give up their juice, toss them in the microwave for 20 seconds and you will soon have a very juicy citrus! a little trick i learned along the way. 😉

Copyright © AromasFromMyKitchen

one new per week …

do you ever find yourself trying to find new inspirations for dinner?

in this season of our lives i’m not often cooking for both of us. since hubby is a full-time grad student it made sense for him to have a meal plan as he is on campus the majority of most days and two nights a week has class either before or after dinner time. when it’s just me for dinner i tend to make something “breakfasty” or a sandwich or something. i hate making a “real” meal for just me. the nights i cook for both of us i find myself falling back on either old favorites or whatever is easy & quick.

so many different times during a given week i come across a recipe that sounds amazing and yet i still make the same things. that is about to change. i’m challenging myself to make one new recipe a week. it can be a side or a main dish & gluten free of course (or adapted for gluten free). i’m so excited to challenge myself in this way with my cooking and to hopefully grow my repertoire and hopefully in my cooking skills.

last week i tried a recipe that my mom had made a while back and that she and my dad both loved and she had passed it on, mashed cauliflower. i had found lobster tails on sale at our local grocery store (hubby & i LOVE lobster) and huge steaks on sale as well. what better pairing than some mashed cauliflower (oh, and a bottle of wine we had been given). the mashed cauliflower was super easy, DELICIOUS and healthy! pureed or mashed cauliflower is a great substitute for mashed potatoes. it’s low in carbs and high in nutrients, the “cauli-taste” is very mild.

Ingredients
1 medium head cauliflower
1 tablespoon cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/8 teaspoon straight chicken base or bullion (may substitute 1/2 teaspoon salt)
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh or dry chives, for garnish
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions
Set a stockpot of water to boil over high heat.
Clean and cut cauliflower into small pieces.
Cook in boiling water for about 6 minutes, or until well done.
Drain well; do not let cool and pat cooked cauliflower very dry between several layers of paper towels.
In a bowl with an immersion blender, or in a food processor, puree the hot cauliflower with the cream cheese, Parmesan, garlic, chicken base, and pepper until almost smooth.
Garnish with chives, and serve hot with pats of butter.

Hint: Try roasting the garlic and adding a little fresh rosemary for a whole new taste.

roasted cauliflower

this past friday afternoon an unexpected opportunity presented itself. i arrived at the airport to pick up a friend only to find her flight was going to be delayed an additional 30 minutes from the originally planned landing AND i was already 30 minutes early. sooo, i made a beeline for the nearest bookstore to find some reading material. when i walked in, staring me in the face were 2 racks full of foodie magazines. with an hour or more to kill, i purchased 4 of them and found a spot to indulge myself. and indulge i did … blocking out the sounds of antsy kids running around me and mothers trying to corral them and the drumline sitting behind me practicing while they waited for their flight. during my indulgence session i happened upon the following recipe in bon appetit (february 2013) which i tried this evening and i will just say, this is going to become a regular in my repotoire. the recipe suggests adding parmesan cheese … and i am sure it is delicious … but i was out so i just made it without and it made my tastebuds VERY happy!! it’s like Anne Burrell of Food Network says, “brown food tastes good!”. you can’t go wrong!

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    Parmesan-Roasted Cauliflower

1 head cauliflower
3 tbsp olive oil
4 unpeeled garlic cloves
4 thyme sprigs
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion
1/2 cup grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Cut the cauliflower into florets, toss onto a large, rimmed baking sheet.
Slice onion, toss onto baking sheet w/cauliflower florets.
Put olive oil, thyme sprigs, kosher salt & black pepper over the onion and cauliflower. Toss to coat w/olive oil, salt & pepper.
Put pan in the oven and roast, tossing occasionally for 35-40 minutes depending on how soft you like your veggies. Sprinkle w/parmesan cheese, toss to combine and put back in oven to continue roasting until everything is tender, about 10-12 min longer. The cauliflower and onions will turned a beautiful golden brown with toasty edges.