Standard weeknight fare

Made this for supper recently and thought it was a pretty fair representative of a standard weeknight meal. 2 veggies, a little protein, simple, fresh and yummy (in my opinion).

  • Asparagus tossed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, then broiled. Serve with lemon wedge
  • Roasted gold beets, quartered and tossed with sherry vinegar, salt, pepper and a little feta and mint
  • Wild salmon- pan-seared (skin side up), then flipped, slathered with some pesto from the freezer and popped into the oven on broil (still on from the asparagus) for a few minutes.

Easy jambalaya

This is a cheaters jambalya, but it’s delicious. Why do I think I should get extra points for making it the “right” way, when this is really just as delicious? Anyway, the basic difference between this recipe and the “real” recipe, is that I am preparing a few different components, stirring them all together and calling them jambalaya…as opposed to undertaking that difficult task of attempting to throw a lot of things in a pot, say a prayer and hope that they all come out right. Subtle difference, but any Cajun would call me on it.

The real key here is that you can use leftover chicken. I roasted one and had some light and dark meat leftover. Also had some turkey sausage leftover from making Rabia’s Delight, which was scrumptious. Add some Gulf shrimp that I had stashed in the freezer, some bell peppers I had in the fridge for dipping in hummus, a can of chopped tomatoes and some rice, and you have jambalaya!

In addition to being a cheater’s version, I don’t have a “recipe.” This is definitely more of a wing it recipe. But here’s a general guide….

  1. Brown thinly sliced sausage in a little olive oil. If using pork sausage (which is really fatty), I would drain it on a paper towel-lined plate after browning and remove some oil before continuing. With turkey sausage, once browned at the edges, throw in half a chopped onion, half a chopped green bell pepper, half a chopped red or yellow bell pepper, 3 toes chopped garlic, some chopped celery (if you already have it),  a liberal sprinkling of thyme (maybe 2 tsp) and a pinch of cayenne (~1/4 tsp). Saute until very soft, but not too browned.
  2. Drain a small can of chopped tomatoes, reserving juice. While veggies cook, get your rice started. Cook according to packaged instructions, but substitute water for reserved tomato water and low sodium chicken broth. Add a bay leaf and cook until tender.
  3. Once veggies are soft, add chopped tomatoes and a little chicken broth (~1/4 cup). Turn to low and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes.
  4. While simmering veggies, shred your chicken and peel your shrimp. Once the rice is cooked, spread out on a pan to cool a bit- this keeps it from getting mushy. Once cool, stir your chicken and shrimp into your veggie mixture and cook on medium for 2-3 min, until shrimp are pink. Stir in rice and season to taste with salt, pepper, or your favorite Cajun seasoning.
  5. Serve with hotsauce!

Pretty snack

I totally got this one from mom. If you’re going to have an apple, why not make it a little more of a treat?

 

Pork tinga

This is absolutely fantastic. Rich, deep, spicy flavors + easy and cheap? A serious keeper.  I’ve made it twice now and already can’t wait for the next try.

PORK TINGA

  • 2 lbs boneless pork butt, trimmed of fat and cut into chunks
  • 2 medium onions, one quartered and one finely chopped
  • 5 toes garlic, 3 smashed but whole and 2 finely minced
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 14.5 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 T ground dried chipotle
  • 2 bay leaves

TOPPING & TOSTADAS

  • Corn tortillas
  • Veggie or corn oil
  • Avocado
  • Lime
  • Cilantro (optional, as always)
  • Queso fresco or feta

For the pork….

  1. Bring pork, quartered onion, smashed garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon salt, and 6 cups water to simmer in large saucepan over medium-high heat, skimming off any foam that rises to surface. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover, and cook until pork is tender, 75 to 90 minutes. Drain pork, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Discard onion and garlic. Shred pork into rough ½-inch pieces and set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add shredded pork, chopped onion, and oregano; cook, stirring often, until pork is well browned and crisp, 7 to 10 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds
  3. Stir in tomato sauce, chipotle powder, reserved pork cooking liquid, and bay leaves; simmer until almost all liquid has evaporated, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaves and season with salt to taste.

For the oven-baked tostadas….

  1. Heat oven to 450. Arrange 12 six-inch corn tortillas in a single layer on two rimmed baking sheets; brush both sides of each tortilla with vegetable oil (about 2 tablespoons per tray).
  2. Place a wire rack upside down on top of the tortillas to keep them flat. Bake on the upper- and lower-middle racks until lightly browned and crisp, 15 to 18 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking.

To serve….

  1. Pile tinga on tortilla. Serve with chopped avocado, cilantro, lime slices, queso fresco or feta, etc.

P.S. The oven-baked tostadas are an excellent thing to have around. I use them for breakfast and top with a fried egg and lots of pico or salsa. Here it is with some leftover beans, an egg, salsa and fresh cilantro:

P.P.S.  This recipe makes a lot of pork. After awhile, I decided to do something different. Stirred in a little BBQ sauce and served on a roll with pickles. See it here with a yummy salad (romaine, grapefruit, avocado and a lime vinaigrette) and homemade ginger lemonade.

I see London, I see France

Well, I’m off on my two-week excursion to France (Paris, Grenoble) and London. It’s going to be a lot of hard work with a generous dash of fun sprinkled throughout. One thing is for certain- I will be eating and drinking well. I’ll take some pictures and update when I get back. Maybe even try to recreate some of the goodness back here in Austin. Maybe.

Until then!

 

Mexican chocolate pudding

Man, was I skeptical when I first read about this recipe. First of all it’s vegan. Yes, vegan. Secondly, it’s basically made in a blender. Weird, huh? But, the cinnamon and pinch of chile caught my eye. Also, I love dishes like this that aren’t exactly “healthy” but are much healthier versions of the original.

Anyway, I made it and could not have been more pleased. It’s creamy and subtly spicy with cinnamon and a little heat. The chocolate has a tropical tartness. All in all, a winner. I think it’d be great for kids too with the extra protein. I had it plain in the picture above, but also served it with a Khalua-spiked whipped cream. Yum.

Courtesy of Mr. Mark Bittman

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 pound silken tofu
  • 8 ounces high-quality semisweet chocolate, melted (click this for melting options)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, or more to taste
  • Optional whipped cream or chocolate shavings for garnish
  1. Combine sugar with 3/4 cup water in a small pot; bring to a boil and cook until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly.
  2. Put all ingredients except for optional garnishes in a blender and purée until completely smooth, stopping machine to scrape down its sides if necessary. Divide among 4 to 6 ramekins and chill for at least 30 minutes.

 

Party planning

I need to take a break from work, so here’s some info on a party I’m planning right now. We’re having 25-30 people over on Friday night for apps, sweets and booze. I’m in the middle of a crazy week, so I’m looking to make it pretty easy on myself…but still amazing.  A few tips to that end:

  • I think a spread looks more impressive as a whole if it follows something of a theme (e.g. Italian, Mexican, Comfort food).
  • When the whole looks impressive, you have a little more wiggle room on the individual items. Meaning that you can buy more dishes ready-made or ready-to-assemble.
  • Always plan several items that can be wholly or partially cooked 1-2 days in advance.
  • For a cocktail party, I shoot for 3 savory dishes (1 veggie, 1 vegetarian or seafood, and 1 meat), 2 sweets and 1 signature drink.
  • Try to avoid dished that need utensils or more than 2 bites.

With those rules in mind, I came up with the following 3 menus:

Mexican

  1. Guacamole topped with chipotle puree and toasted almonds, served with chips (vegetarian): Easy-peasy. You have to make the guac the day of, but easy to puree the chipotle in adobo and toast the almonds in advance
  2. Cilantro dip  with crudite (veggies): The dip is store-bought and I’d cheat and buy a lot of veggies already prepped
  3. Oregano-crusted pork tenderloin sliders with pickled red onion and lime aioli (meat): Cheap, delicious and easy. I can make the pork and red onions in advance, the rolls come from the freezer section and the “lime aioli”is just mayo with lime zest and sauteed garlic.
  4. Subtly spicy Mexican chocolate pudding with cinnamon cream, served in little shot glasses (sweet #1): You literally make this dish in a blender. It is so good and easy…and vegan (minus the whipped cream)
  5. Key lime bars (sweet #2): The hardest thing on the menu, so I might think about a substitute.
  6. Margaritas (signature cocktail): Always easy, always delicious. Pre-mix everything and just have it out for people to serve themselves

Comfort food

  1. Michael’s curry dip with crudite (veggie): Easy to make in advance because it tastes better after a day or two…and I can outsource it to my husband
  2. Little crawfish pies (seafood): Store-bought pie shells filled with crawfish etouffee and cooked with parm on top. YUM. The etouffee isn’t “easy” but I’ll end up with more than half of it in my freezer for a rainy day, so I don’t mind the effort
  3. Pigs in a blanket (meat): Come on, people. They are delicious and everyone loves them. Literally just store-bought little sausages rolled in crescent roll dough and baked. Sprinkle some poppy seeds on some before baking, mix up some honey mustard (yellow mustard, honey and a bit of mayo) and Schriracha ketchup, and people with think you’re Christ come again.
  4. Brown-butter rice krispie treats (sweet #1): Just increase the butter a bit and let it get nice and brown before you mix it up. Sprinkle a bit of course salt on top while it’s still warm in the pan.
  5. Peanut butter, chocolate chunk cookies (sweet#2): My earliest signature dish and still a winner. Stay great for days, so you can make in advance.
  6. Bourbon slushes (signature cocktail): Mix it two days ahead and  pop it in the freezer. Then you just separate the ice with a fork and leave it out for people to serve themselves.

Italian/Mediterranean

  1. Rebecca F’s delicious prosciutto wrapped goat cheese (meat): So easy, plentiful and yummy. They do need to be assembled the day of the party, but it’s an easy job for a hubby or child (hah)
  2. Puff pastry tartlets with pesto, fresh mozzerella and sun dried tomatoes (vegetarian):  Another day-of job, but easy and great at room temp.
  3. Mediterranean platter (veggies): Store-bought grape leaves, hummus + crudite, olives, and Marcona almonds
  4. Nutella and banana tea sandwiches (sweet #1): Seriously. Nutella and bananas in perfectly square, little white-bread, crustless  sandwiches
  5. Meringue cookies with lemon curd (sweet #2): Store-bought meringues with store-bought lemon curd. Add a blueberry or raspberry on top and we’re in business
  6. Blood orange Sangria (signature cocktail): Add “blood orange” to the title and people will think it was harder. 🙂 Better if you make it a day in advance

So, 3 menus that are all easy, delicious and well-balanced. My honey picked the last one for the party. What do you think?

Either way, I’ll start linking back to some of these recipes. Fun, fun!

My mom’s pancakes

Listen, my mother can make the best pancakes in the world. I regularly order pancakes and I am telling you that only once (ONE time) did restaurant pancakes even come close to challenging mom’s. On a related note, if you find yourself in Fredericksburg, Tx, consider stopping at the famous Rather Sweet bakery and ordering the pancakes.

I’m including the basic recipe below, but you’ll notice that the pictures capture a slightly more accessorized version. As my dad quite correctly pointed out, my love of souped-up pancakes came from his hotcakes recipe, which was handed down from my grandmother, Bummy. The picture shows banana and toasted pecan pancakes- I made them for my hubby’s birthday breakfast. We did not divorce that morning. I love to add blueberries and lemon zest, or sauteed apple bits with cinnamon (my favorite version from Dad). You get the picture. My only bit of advice when it comes to toppings is to listen to Mae West- too much of a good thing can be wonderful. If you’re adding blueberries, add a damn bucket of them!

  • 1   Cup cake flour
  • 4   teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4  tsp. salt
  • 3/4  tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2  tsp. baking soda
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 2 Tablespoons sour cream (lowfat is fine)
  • 1 Cup buttermilk (don’t even think about using regular)
  • 2 Tablespoons corn/veggie/canola oil
  1. Stir (or even better sift) together dry ingredients.
  2. Beat wet ingredients, including egg yolk (but NOT egg whites) together.
  3. Whip egg whites until foamy and lightly stiff.
  4. Mix dry mixture with wet mixture, then gently fold in egg whites.
  5. Heat grill and coat with butter. You’ll need more butter with every batch, so just get over it. It’s pancakes. They involve butter.
  6. Drop ~1/4 cup per pancake on hot griddle. If using toppings, sprinkle on top of each pancake at this point. Once you see nice, big bubbles and the underside is golden, you can flip those suckers.
  7. Keep warm in a 200 degree oven while you attack the next batch.

Mediocre pictures, delicious food

Look… I have tried and tried to capture this dish in pictures. But,  I just have my dinky little Coolpix and I can’t do it justice. I’ve finally decided that I need to just post the bastard and hope that you’ll trust me vs. your eyes.

I found some version of this recipe about 5 years ago in a Mario Batali cookbook, but the dish I make today is only a very distant cousin of that dish. For starters, I’ve cut every corner possible. If I’m going to invest an impressive amount of time and energy into a dish, it is going to be something a lot more impressive than eggplant rotini. Second, I like to bulk it up a bit with spinach and more filler. You can skip the greens if you want/are a Communist.  Anywho, here goes..

Serves 6-8  as a side and 4 as a main dish

  • 2  Large eggplant
  • 1  Package chopped frozen spinach- thawed and strained
  • 1  Cup ricotta- full-fat or low-fat is preferable to fat free
  • 1  Egg, beaten
  • ¼ Cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1   Teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 2    Cups marinara sauce
  • 3   Tablespoons chopped basil
  • 1   Cup grated Italian cheese, such as Asiago, Mozzarella, etc.

1.    Eggplant: Peel eggplant and slice very thinly (1/4 inch or less) lengthwise with a knife of mandolin.  You should have long, thin strips of eggplant. At this point, eggplant can be grilled or broiled.

Grilled: Clean and oil grill. Spray or brush with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides. Lay on hot grill for ~1 minute on each side. Eggplant should be very slightly charred with some darker spots

b.      Broiled: Preheat broiler and move rack to bottom middle position. Spray or brush with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides. Place eggplant on 2 cookie sheets and broil 2 minutes on each side

Set aside eggplant for later use. Preheat or decrease oven heat to 400 degrees

2.    Filling: Combine spinach, egg, nutmeg and parmesan cheese in small bowl until combined. Stir in ricotta cheese and set aside

3.   Assemble: Pour marinara into large pyrex or other oven-safe casserole dish and stir in chopped basil.  Place approx 1 tablespoon of spinach filling at “fat” end of prepared eggplant.  Carefully roll filled end towards thinner end until you have a stuffed tube. Place seam-side down in prepared dish.  Fill dish compactly with rolled eggplant, sprinkle with grated cheese and cook until cheese is melted and spotty, approx 10 minutes.

Note:  Dish can be prepared up to 1 day in advance, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature prior to heating and heat additional 3-5 minutes.

Brainstorming

Ok, ok…I know this is so predictable, but I need to go on a bit of a diet. I absolutely refuse to give up the things I love, but I am willing to make a much bigger effort to balance my diet and exercise. Especially if it means looking better in a dress.

I’m cutting back on calories overall, cutting way back on simple carbs after breakfast, and limiting myself to 2 non-fruit desserts a week. Combine that with the amped up excercise routine I started a few months ago (err, minus a small break around the holidays) and I think I’ll be good to go.

On that point, I did some brainstorming yesterday. I wanted delicious dishes that fit my restrictions so that I don’t feel all sad and deprived. Boo. Here’s where I landed….

Main dishes

  • Thai chicken and basil lettuce wraps
  • Entree salads: Cobb, Chicken Caesar, Nicoise, Steak, etc.
  • Turkey patties with mushrooms and cheese
  • Tuscan chicken casserole
  • Frittata
  • Lamb patties with  minty yogurt sauce  with chopped Greek salad
  • Thai shrimp soup
  • Pescado Veracruzano
  • Roast chicken
  • Mexican chicken & lime soup
  • Venison chili
  • Indian veggie stew
  • Roasted turkey breast
  • Chicken salad, tuna salad
  • French Onion soup
  • Veggie-rich egg scrambles

Sides and Snacks

  • Thai bean noodle salad
  • Green beans with almonds
  • Roasted asparagus (with Parm or hollandaise)
  • Just delicious salads…all kinds
  • Roasted mixed veggies
  • Roasted cabbage wedges
  • Roasted Indian broccoli over raita
  • Sauteed spinach
  • Portobella mushroom stuffed with spinach, pinenuts & feta
  • Fennel and Celery salad with mozz (Dama Blanca)
  • Jicama and green mango slaw
  • La Condesa brussel sprouts (sounds weird, but it’s brussels with red grapes and bacon)
  • Spinach Madeline
  • “Deviled” eggs (egg whites stuffed with hummus)

I’ll update with pics and recipes as I get started. Off to the grocery today!