Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Green Chorizo, Kale and Potato Tacos

The combination of a CSA box and the need for fast or make ahead meals causes me to branch out to recipes I may not normally try.  This is one of those.  Tacos with kale?  What the what?  We loved this recipe!

I varied greatly from the original recipe, mostly because I was supposed to let the homemade chorizo sit over night for flavors to combine.  I kinda missed reading that part and marking it appropriately on my weekly menu.  When I was prepping my supper ingredients before swim practice, I looked over the recipe and read refrigerate over night.  Oops.  For a variety of reasons, I combined the first four steps which would have taken substantial time into one short, much quicker step.

We still loved the recipe!

I'm contemplating doing a Taco night when it's my night to cook at our extended family's beach week (unless someone else wants to cook--then I'm completely fine with giving up my taco night plans!).  This would be on the menu, it's that good.  It comes together rather quickly when you skip and combine steps like I did.  Or, you could actually refrigerate the chorizo over night and have a much more intensely flavored sausage.

Serves 4 - 6

Green Chorizo, Kale, and Potato Tacos
adapted from Food and Wine magazine

1/8 t whole black peppercorns
1/8 t whole coriander seeds
1/8 t dried oregano
1 bay leaf, crushed
1 clove
2 unpeeled garlic cloves
1 small poblano chile (optional)
1 c lightly packed parsley leaves, finely chopped
2 T red wine vinegar
3/4 lb ground pork

1 lb small potatoes, sliced crosswise and cut into 1/2" rounds
1/4 c olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 lb kale, stems discarded and leaves removed
12 warm corn tortillas
crumbled queso fresco
sour cream

To make the chorizo:  in a small skillet toast the peppercorns, coriander seeds, oregano, bay leaf, and clove over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Transfer to spice grinder and finely grind them.  In the same skillet, roast the garlic cloves over high heat, turning until tender and charred in spots, about 10 minutes.  Cook, then peel.  Finely grind the garlic in the spice grinder (if your spice grinder will handle such things).  If you are using the poblano (we didn't because the kids don't like spice), char all over, either using a gas flame, broiler, or gas grill.  Place in a bowl and cover tightly.  Let sit for 10 minutes, then peel, stem and side the chile.  Finely chop.  Combine poblano, garlic, spices, parsley, red wine vinegar, 1 1/2 t salt, and ground pork.  If you are on top things, tightly cover pork and refrigerate over night.  If you haven't read the recipe through until right now, skip the refrigeration part and continue on.

Toss the potatoes with 1 T olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet and season with salt and pepper.  Roast in a preheated 350 degrees oven for 20 - 30 minutes, or until golden and tender, turning potatoes once.  While the potatoes roast, heat 3 T olive oil in a large skillet.  Add the garlic and pork mixture  and cook over medium high heat until meat starts to brown, breaking up large clumps with a wooden spoon.  Add the kale and toss until it fits nicely into the pan (because it's wilted).  Add one cup of water.  Cook over medium low heat until the kale the is tender and the chorizo is cooked, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Fold in the potatoes and season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve:  Spoon some of the kale, chorizo, and potato mixture into the center of a warm corn tortilla.  Top with a sprinkle of queso fresco, sour cream, and salsa as desired.  Roll up and eat.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Italian Sandwiches

Unfortunately, in these days of juggling swimming, baseball, and soccer, we have eaten not at home more than once--we've eaten at the swimming pool, at baseball games, and in the car.  I know, not ideal, but it is the reality of early swim season.

Compounding the scheduling problem is the fact that my kids get basic sandwiches most days for lunches--peanut butter and jelly for one and meat, cheese, and lettuce for the other.  When I feed kids on the go, I try to avoid making them eat the same meal twice in one day.

These sandwiches are an answer to that.  They use "fancier" meat and cheeses.  There's a layer of roasted red peppers which make almost all sandwiches better and we use special, chewy white bread instead of the whole wheat fare of lunches.

This is a staple in our early swim season menu and adaptable enough to customize for all of my five silly eaters.  Ideally, I would make this the morning that I wanted to eat it and let them the sandwiches sit all day so their juices absorb into the bread.  However, I don't think my kids would go for that (and I'm just not that with it), so I make them right before we eat them.

This will serve 4 - 6, depending on the size of your sandwiches.  Just change amounts for the number of people you are feeding.

Italian Sandwiches
adapted from Sunset Magazine

1 - 2 ciabatta loaves (I love Whole Foods olive oil and sea salt ciabatta loaves for this)
1/4 - 1/2 c olive tapenade (black, green, or a mixture)
2 T balsamic vinegar
2 T olive oil
1/2 - 3/4 lb Italian deli meats, such as salami, prosciutto, coppa, etc (I like the Costco Italian deli meat tray)
8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced as a thinly as possible
1 roasted red bell pepper (either home roasted or store bought, jarred)
6 leaves basil, torn into small pieces

If everyone you are feeding will eat an identical sandwich, the easiest way to make this is to slice the entire ciabatta loaf in half horizontally.  Spread bottom half with the tapenade.  Drizzle the cut side of the top half with vinegar and oil.  Arrange the meats on top of the tapenade, followed by the mozzarella, red pepper, and basil.  Place top half on top of filling.

If everyone likes their own version of this sandwich (like in my house), first slice the ciabatta into the desired serving size for each person.  Then cut each slice into half horizontally and add desired sandwich fixings.

If you are me, you eat these immediately and don't press at all.  However if you have more forethought, proceed with the recipe.

Once sandwiches are made (either way you are doing it), wrap with foil or plastic wrap.  Place a heavy cutting board or cast iron skillet on top of sandwiches and weight with 2 - 4 lbs (think of cans of beans, six pack, etc).  Let sit 30 minutes to 2 hours.  Unwrap and serve

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Laab with Pasta

As is the theme with all my May recipes, this is another good swim practice recipe.  It is made quickly and there's nothing complicated about it.  It is good energy for the kids with some pasta to help hold them over to breakfast.

When I first read this recipe, I was a little unsure--turned out it was great.  My budding vegetarian wasn't a fan of this, but the other kids liked it fine.  I am learning the key to different eaters is not mixing everything all together at the end.  I served the laab in one dish and the angel hair in the another and everything worked out.

This serves 5.

Laab with Pasta
adapted from Food and Wine

1/2 lb angel hair pasta
1 T olive oil
1 T sesame oil
1/2 c sliced almonds
1 jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed, minced (optional)
1 t minced, fresh ginger
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1/4 c fish sauce
4 scallions, including green tops, chopped
1 c coarsely chopped fresh mint
1/4 lime juice plus 1 lime cut into wedges

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente, according to package directions.  Drain, rinse with cold water and drain again.  Transfer to a serving dish.

In large pan, toast the almonds over medium low heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 5 minutes (I find the best way to test nuts for doneness while toasting it to smell them.  Once they develop a rich, fragrant smell, they are usually ready to remove from the pan).  Remove the nuts from the pan and set aside.  

Meanwhile, heat a pan over medium high heat.  Add half the jalapeño, if using, ginger, beef, and a teaspoon of salt.  Cook the meat, breaking up large pieces with a wooden spoon, until brown and cooked through, about 10 minutes.  Remove from pan from heat and stir in the sesame oil, fish sauce, scallions, mint, and lime juice.  Transfer to a serving bowl.

To serve, put pasta on plates and top with beef mixture.  Sprinkle with remaining minced jalapeño, if desired, sliced almonds and serve with lime wedges.  

Monday, May 19, 2014


There are a few recipes I've been making forever and just have never blogged.  This is one of those.  Every time I want snickerdoodles, I scour this website.  Finally I remember, no, the recipe isn't here.  Then off to visit Deb (in her Smitten Kitchen) I go!

In the idea of saving some time, I am finally posting the snickerdoodle recipe here.  This would be a favorite cookie of two of my family members, one of which who has been known to convince her friends to give her their snickerdoodles.  On those occasions, I call her my Stinkerdoodle (well, and other occasions too).  It is a term of endearment in our house.

I make the whole batch at once and then freeze them.  When I pack lunches, I simply open up the freezer and viola!  A cookie for everyone!  By lunch time they are just the right temperature and taste much fresher than if they had been on the counter for a week.

Quick, before the school year is over, go make snickerdoodles and put one (or two) in your very own stinkerdoodle's lunch!

This makes 3 - 4 dozen cookies depending on how big you make them.  I tend to make them on the smaller size. (You can eat more that way!)

Stinkerdoodle's Snickerdoodles
adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen who found this recipe from Martha

2 3/4 c flour
2 t cream of tartar
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
16 T (1 cup or 8 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 c sugar
2 eggs

1/4 c sugar
2 T ground cinnamon

Sift together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.  In a large bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer), combine butter and 1 1/2 c sugar.  Beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes depending on how powerful your electric mixer is.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs.  Beat to combine.  Pour in the dry ingredients and beat just until everything is incorporated.  Chill the dough for an hour or more, to make them easier to roll--otherwise they stick to your hands a lot.

In a small bowl or plate, combine 1/4 c sugar and ground cinnamon.  Form dough into balls (either using 3/4 oz (size 40) ice cream scoop or teaspoons (the eating kind).  Roll in the cinnamon sugar and place on baking sheet.  Bake in a preheated 400 degrees oven for 10 minutes.  Cookies should be set in the center and begin to crack (they won't brown--don't even try to brown them because they will be overdone!).

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Thai Chicken and Noodles

I've been making this recipe for years, but for some reason, it's never made it on to the blog.

As far as slow cooker recipes go, this one is a little more time intensive and hands on than some.  However it is well worth it.  Originally, this is to be served over lettuce.  We like it better over some rice noodles though.

This will serve 6 - 8.

Thai Chicken and Noodles
adapted from Williams-Sonoma The New Slow Cooker

1 (3 1/2-lb) chicken cut into 11 pieces (2 thighs, 2 drumsticks, 4 breast portions plus 2 wings and backbone.  Save the wings and backbone for chicken stock)
2 T olive oil
1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed, cut in half lengthwise, and cut into thick (1/4") slices
1/2 lg yellow onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c dry white wine
1/4 c fish sauce
1/2 c chicken stock or water

2 T olive oil
1 T soy sauce
juice of 1 lime
2 t red wine vinegar
1 t peeled and minced ginger

4 green onions, thinly sliced (optional)
2 T fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
8 oz rice noodles
lime wedges

Season chicken all over with salt and pepper.  In a large pan over medium high heat, warm 2 T olive oil.  Add the chicken, in batches to prevent overcrowding, to the pan and sear until golden brown on all sides, about 8 minutes.  Set aside and sear remaining chicken.

Pour off most of the fat in the pan, leaving 1 - 2 T.  Return the pan to medium-high heat.  Add the lemongrass and onion and sauté for 5 minutes or until onion is golden.  Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.  Pour in wine, fish sauce, and chicken stock and stir to dislodge any browned bits from the bottom.    Season with a bit of salt and pepper and transfer mixture to a large (6 qt) slow cooker.  Stack the chicken on top.  Cover and cook on low setting for 3 - 5 hours (mine is done usually around 3 1/2 - 4 hrs, but my slow cooker is not as slow as some), or until chicken is very tender.

When chicken is finished cooking,  bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the rice noodles and cook until al dente.  Drain and place in serving dish.

While the water comes to a boil, transfer cooked, tender chicken to a plate and let cool slightly.  Pull off skin and remove meat from the bones.  (At this point, I discard the skin.  I transfer the bones, plus the neck and wings, and juices left in the slow cooker to a large pot.  I cover with water and let simmer on the stove for several hours for a nice flavorful chicken stock).  Shred the chicken with 2 forks or your fingers.  Place chicken in a serving bowl.

Combine olive oil, soy sauce, juice of 1 lime, red wine vinegar, and minced garlic.  Shake vigorously in a jar, blend in a mini food processor, or use an immersion blender to combine vinaigrette.  Pour half of vinaigrette over chicken along with green onions, if using, and cilantro.  Toss well.  Taste and add more vinaigrette if desired (I almost always desire more).  Serve chicken over cooked rice noodles.  Accompany with lime wedges.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Baked Rigatoni with Tiny Meatballs

March, April and May are my absolutely nuts months, with the end of April/beginning of May being the absolute nuttiest.  There's a lot of juggling practice and game schedules with the usual piano lessons and school work.  This is the fifth year of daily swim practices right smack in the middle of supper making time, so thankfully, I know the key to not eating junk for the entire month of May--planning ahead.

This time of the year, there's lots of meals in the crockpot, meals made in the middle of the day, and meals pulled out of the freezer (that I made ahead of time).  When I choose new dishes to try, they have to be able to be either made ahead or incredibly quick.  Plus, thanks to swim practice they need to pack an energy punch, with the ability to replace the many, many calories the kids are expending during swimming in a nutricious-like fashion.

These was one find.  My picky meat eater even found the meatballs acceptable.  Next time, I want to increase the amount of seasonings in the meatballs, but other than that, it great.

Serves 6 - 8.

Baked Rigatoni with not so tiny Meatballs
adapted slightly from Deb at Smitten Kitchen who got it from Marcella Hazan

The Meatballs
1/4 c milk
1 slice good white or wheat bread, torn into small pieces
1 lb ground beef (or pork)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T parsley, chopped
1 t basil
1 t oregano
1/2 t salt
1/3 c freshly grated Parmesan
1 egg
1 c flour

The Bechamel
4 1/2 c milk
6 T butter
5 T flour
1/8 t nutmeg
1/2 t salt
1/4 t black pepper

The Assembly
1 lb rigatoni, cooked to al dente
3/4 c freshly grated Parmesan
1 T butter
1/4 c milk

Heat the milk (but don't let it simmer).  Add the torn bread and let it soak for 5 minutes.  If possible, squeeze excess milk from soaked bread after 5 minutes (it's ok if this is close to impossible to do, like it was for me).  Place in large bowl.  Add beef, garlic, parsley, 1/3 c grated Parmesan, egg, salt, and pepper.  Stir with a fork until evenly mixed.  Pinch off a small lump of meat, about the size of a raspberry to a large grape (mine were on the larger size of course because raspberries seemed too tedious!), and roll into a ball.  Once you have made all your (not so) tiny meatballs, roll them in the flour.  Over medium high heat, heat enough vegetable oil in a skillet to rise 1/4 inch up the sides of the pan.  When the oil is hot, put as many meatballs as will fit into the pan without overcrowding.  Brown them until they form a nice crust all around.  Transfer to paper towels to drain and continue with remaining meatballs until all have been fried.  Set aside

To make the béchamel:  Heat the milk over medium low heat in a saucepan until it forms a ring of pearly bubbles (but don't bring to a boil)  *You can also do this in the microwave in a microwave proof measuring cup if you are challenged in the area of large saucepans.  In a larger saucepan, melt the butter over low heat, add the flour, and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until it is combined.  Add 2 T of milk at a time to the flour and butter mixture, stirring steadily and thoroughly through 8 additions (1 c worth of milk).  After this, add milk in 1/2 c increments, stirring constantly to keep it smooth.  Add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg and stir the sauce until it thickens.

To assemble:  Combine cooked rigatoni with 2/3 of the béchamel sauce, half the grated cheese, and the meatballs in a large 9x13" pan.  Spread with a rubber spatula so it is smooth.  Pour the 1/4 c milk over top and sprinkle with remaining grated cheese.

Bake on the top rack of a preheated 400 degrees oven for 15 - 20 minutes or until a golden brown crust forms on top.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Fresh Mozzarella Pasta Bake

Every once in a while, I have a random leftover I have to use.  This recipe was made for that exact reason.  I bought fresh mozzarella for homemade pizza and some was leftover.  I was excited to find this recipe to use the fresh mozzarella, because it was easy and also a good make ahead recipe.

This serves 6-8.

Fresh Mozzarella Pasta Bake
adapted from Jamie

2 T olive oil
1 lg onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 (14.5) cans fire roasted diced or crushed tomatoes (or 1.5 kg fresh tomatoes, peeled if desired, and roughly chopped)
1 lg handful basil leaves, torn or coarsely chopped.
1 T red wine vinegar
1 lb orecchiette (or other medium chunky pasta)
1/2 c Parmesan cheese, grated
1 lb (more or less) fresh mozzarella balls, sliced

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onions and sauté for about 10 minutes, or until softened.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.  Add tomatoes to the onion and garlic along with a 1/2 c of water.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.  Using an immersion blender, food processor, or regular blender, process tomato mixture to make a smoother sauce.  Add the basil and red wine vinegar.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, bring large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente, according to package directions.  Drain and toss with half of the tomato sauce and 1/4 c Parmesan.  Spread a layer of pasta in a 9x13" baking pan.  Follow with tomato sauce, a sprinkle of Parmesan and 1/3 of the mozzarella.  Repeat these layers three times, ending with a layer of mozzarella on top.

(At this point, you can refrigerate the dish until you are ready to eat.  Add some time to the baking time).

Bake in a preheated 400 degrees oven for 15 minutes or until topping is golden, crisp and bubbling.