Thursday, July 24, 2014

Short Rib Cowboy Tacos

I'd feel bad about posting about tacos twice in a row, but since it's been a little while since Operation Taco Box, I figured why not. Especially since I'M PREGNANT, I figure y'all can give me a break on a little recipe repetition, right? :)

Honestly, this whole pregnancy thing has kept me from being super adventurous in the kitchen. Lots more meals eaten out, and plenty of simple meals (think sandwiches, and meals based off pre-marinated chicken breasts, for example). A few of the cravings/phases I've gone through in the past months:

  • CHEESEBURGERS (granted, these are always a favorite of mine, but I've given in a lot more often than I used to)
  • Caesar everything (think caesar salad, chicken caesar BLT tacos, chicken caesar BLT sandwiches...)
  • Eggs and salty meats (There were a couple weeks where I had a mini whole wheat bagel with pancetta, egg and cheddar EVERY DAY for breakfast)
  • Chicken everything (especially nuggets) - I've wished I had a Chick-fil-a- closer to me the past few months (but let's be honest, it's probably best that I don't)
  • Indian/Thai/Chinese food - again, I loved these before, but something about the protein/delicious sauce/carb combo I can't get enough of. The Whole Foods Market hot bar Tikka Masala doesn't know what hit it!
Anyway, between all of my protein cravings, the fact that I escaped a lot of first trimester morning sickness, and some very vivid dreams about having a boy, I was thrilled and not TOO surprised to find out that...

It's a boy! 

In honor of that, I thought I'd share a recipe for cowBOY tacos - enjoy!

Short Rib Cowboy Tacos

1 pound prepared beef short ribs (I made a big batch of these short ribs from Bon Appetit and saved 6 pieces)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 4 ears of corn, kernels removed
1/4 cup chopped red onion
Salt and pepper to taste
Tortillas (you know I love Margarita's Raw White Tortillas that you just cook up real fast in a dry skillet)
3 green onions, chopped
1/3 cup cilantro leaves
4 ounces leafy greens (I used spinach)
Salsa (optional)
Sour cream or Greek yogurt (optional)

Warm up short ribs and cut into bite-sized pieces or shred. Set aside and keep warm.

In a cast iron skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add corn and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until corn begins to brown and onion softens. Season with salt and pepper.

Warm up tortillas and put in short ribs and corn mixture. Sprinkle on green onions and cilantro and add a few leaves of greens. Top with salsa (I like a roasted poblano version, chipotle would be nice too!) and sour cream. Enjoy!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Operation Taco Box

Wow, 5 months flies by fast! Nothing to crazy to catch you up on:

Luke and I had a super sassy trip to Boulder and Breckenridge in January - so much food, booze and fun to be had in 5 days. I hope to go back soon!

I turned 29 and had a lawn games and BBQ party (29 going on 60??).

I enjoyed work trips to New Orleans, San Francisco and wine country in northern California so far this year - no complaints here!

My nephew Ben is now 6 months old! We had a blast spending a long weekend in Galveston with my family and taking Ben on the beach and into a pool for the first time. He LOVED being in the water - future swim team member?

Now, on to this new baby taco box. I remember seeing this post in The Kitchn a few  years ago and thinking it was an awesome idea. Casseroles are plentiful with major life events, tacos are not. My friends Chris and Megan just had their second baby - a girl! I signed up to bring them dinner this week and wanted to make something a little different. The only restrictions are that Megan is pescetarian and can't eat spicy foods right now. No problem!

Here's the menu:

Chips and salsa
Mixed green salad with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and croutons with a homemade herby buttermilk dressing (buttermilk, red wine vinegar, shallot, salt and pepper, basil and cilantro)
Cilantro, green onion and honey lime rice
Build your own tacos featuring:
Fresh made flour tortillas
Cumin scented tilapia - for the whole family to enjoy
Garlic lime marinated chicken thighs - for the guys
Crunchy cabbage
Grated carrots
Sliced green onions
Avocado sour cream sauce
Queso fresco

The salad is easy enough - toss the veggies together (sometimes I just use the plastic clamshell that the salad greens come in to save a dish), a baggie of queso fresco (several ounces that I crumbled for them since it's also a taco topping, and, who doesn't love queso fresco?), and then the homemade buttermilk dressing I put together in a mason jar so they can use as much as they like. It's advisable to not use any containers you hope to get back, and if you're doing something like a mason jar, make sure to tell them to keep it so the new parents aren't stressed about returning it!

Anyone can make plain ol' rice, so I love to make it a little more special by studding it with fresh cilantro and green onions and flavoring it with a bit of lime juice and honey.

The main event! I rarely make dishes many times at home, but fish tacos are one of the easy, put-it-together-in-my-sleep dinners. I typically make the fish kind of spicy with a little cayenne and chipotle powder, but I'm keeping it mild with just a bit of cumin and garlic powder since Megan mentioned her baby isn't loving it when she eats spicy foods. The avocado sour cream sauce is a favorite in our house - simply put avocado, sour cream, cilantro, a clove of garlic, a tablespoon of olive oil and some salt and pepper in a food processor and whir until smooth. All the other toppings get put in separate baggies.

I figured the family is getting inundated with cookies and brownies, so I thought it'd be fun, especially for their 3 year old Liam, to have a handheld dessert with fresh, seasonal fruit! As a bonus, I'm making a double batch so we can bring some to a friends house this weekend.

A few other tips/thoughts:

  • If you're awesome and have baskets or cute boxes, by all means use that. Or, you can accost a produce team member stacking apples and ask for a box. Then simply spray paint it a solid color and decorate! Or, you can be lazy a use a paper bag from the grocery store :)
  • Always make sure you know the family's diet restrictions and preferences
  • Confirm you know when is the best time to drop off food. And be respectful - they may not be up for a long visit. Or, a new mom may love another adult to talk to!
  • Beer and wine are fun additions to any basket :)
  • If there's a child around, you may want to consider a special treat or toy for them. And, if you're on your game (I wasn't) a new baby card.

What's your signature dish to bring to friends and family going through major life events?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Last-Minute Christmas Gifts from the Kitchen

Let's be honest - nobody likes it when you show up empty-handed at their door during the holidays. And sometimes, another bottle of wine isn't going to cut it (it will at my house, though!). Especially when I'll be staying the night at someone's house, it's nice to bring either a special or useful kitchen gift. I like to think the recipes below fit the bill on both counts :)

Christmas Granola 
The red and green colors say it all for this granola. The texture is amazing! Eat it on its own or use as a topping or mix-in. Adapted from The Kitchn.

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups shelled pistachios
3/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds - you can buy an 8oz bag by the nuts in the grocery store)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup coconut oil (or olive oil)
3/4 cup honey (preferably local honey. If you're in Austin, GoodFlow is great!)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup dried tart cherries

Preheat the oven to 300°F with a rack in the lower-middle position. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the oats, pistachios, pepitas, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the coconut oil, honey, brown sugar, and vanilla(Tip, measure the honey in a 1-cup measure.  Then, measure the coconut oil or olive oil, will make it easier to scrape out any honey that stuck). Pour the oil-honey mixture over the dry ingredients and stir gently until all the ingredients are evenly coated.

Transfer the granola to the lined baking sheet. Spread it out so it covers the baking sheet evenly. Bake until the granola is deeply golden and smells delicious, 45 to 50 minutes, stirring the granola every 15 minutes — do not stir more frequently. In the last 5 minutes, stir in the cranberries and cherries and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Once you remove the granola from the oven, do not stir again; it will crisp and solidify into clusters as it cools.

Once the granola has cooled completely, break it into clusters. Lift the edges of the parchment to help dislodge large pieces of granola and use your fingers to break it apart.

Place large pieces and little crumbles in baggies or mason jars and gift away!

Rosemary Pine Nut Biscotti
I usually opt for chocolate biscotti with my coffee, but this version is great with hot tea on a chilly afternoon! Adapted from Catch My Party.

3/4 cup pine nuts
1 3/4 cups all purpose or baking flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter (room temperature)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary chopped
1 teaspoon lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place pine nuts on a baking sheet and toast them in the preheating oven 6-8 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove and place in a bowl to cool.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.

In a standing mixer, beat the butter then add the sugar. Next add the eggs and olive oil and beat on high for about two minutes. Mix in the rosemary and lemon zest.

Pour in all the mixed dry ingredients and mix until just combined, then add the pine nuts and again mix until just combined.

Divide the dough in half in the bowl and place each half on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Form the dough into two logs, about 12 inches long, and 2 inches wide.

Bake for about 30 minutes until it just starts to brown. Take it out of the oven, turn it down to 275°F, and let it cool until you can handle it. Using a serrated knife to cut each log diagonally into about 1/2 slices.

Lay the pieces back on the baking sheet on their side, and put them back into the oven to cook for another 15 minutes per side. Let cool, then place 2-4 in a little baggie and share!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Bacon and Brussels Sprouts Cast Iron Pizza

It's fall (or at least, it was when I made this - hope you had a tasty Thanksgiving!). To me, fall means three things - Brussels sprouts, bacon, and PIZZA. Cooking with a Dutch oven or cast iron is 100% necessary. And if cheese is in the mix, I'm a happy girl.When I saw a recipe that combined all my favorite things, I was so excited to try it! Thanks to How Sweet It Is for this recipe! My tweaked version is below. Great for a casual Friday night pizza night.

Bacon and Brussels Sprouts Cast Iron Pizza

1/2 cup and 1 tablespoon warm water (100-110 degrees)
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 tablespoon honey
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 pieces thick-sliced bacon (I recommend getting these from the butcher if you don't feel like investing in a whole package. $1 will get you two of the best pieces of bacon you'll ever have!)
3/4 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups sharp white cheddar, shredded

 In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine water, yeast, honey and olive oil with a spoon and let sit about 10 minutes. Add in 1 cup flour and salt and mix with the dough hook until the dough comes together but it still sticky. Add the additional 1/2 cup flour and let it keep mixing a couple more minutes. Rub a large metal bowl with olive oil then place the dough inside, turning to coat. Cover with a towel and place in a warm place to rise for about 1 1/2 hours. 

Meanwhile, cook bacon in cast iron skillet until crispy. Remove and place on a paper towel-lined plate.With the cast iron on medium-high heat, add Brussels sprouts to the bacon drippings and cook until crisped, stirring occasionally, about 12-15 minutes. Remove to a bowl and let it cool, then wipe clean.

After the dough has risen for the hour and a half, punch it down and place it back on the floured surface. With floured hands, press out dough to roughly fit your cast iron skillet. Now place an oven rack directly under your broiler and preheat your broiler to the highest setting. Additionally, heat your cast iron on high heat. The pan might begin to smoke - let it get as hot as you're comfortable with, for 10 minutes.  

Carefully flip the pizza dough onto the hot cast iron and let cook 2 minutes. Quickly cover with the cheddar then the Brussels and bacon and put in the oven under the broiler. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until cheese is melted and dough is getting browned on the crust. Remove from the oven and let cool a few minutes, then use a large spatula to place on a cutting board. Cut and demolish :)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A veggie burger that can't be "beet"

My fall garden is in full swing, and I love all the fun colors, flavors and textures that come with harvest time. While burgers are one of my top 5 favorite foods, veggie burgers are in my top 10 and something I love to make at home. I don't see them as a meat replacement, but rather as a delicious treat all on their own! The best thing about these burgers? The bright pink/purple color! Enjoy :)

Veggie Beet Burger

1/3 cup rolled oats
3 medium beets, roasted, peeled and quartered (I roast mine 1-2 days early to let them cool before peeling)
1 cup cooked black rice (or any other rice you have on hand)
1 15-oz can chickpeas (black beans would be nice here too)
2 garlic cloves
1/4 red onion (about 1/2 cup chopped)
1 egg
1 teaspoon cumin
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
6 hamburger buns (scoop out some of the insides to help contain the burger while eating if you like)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
Prepared pesto (I made some a couple days earlier with basil from the garden)
Goat cheese
Greens like spinach, kale or whatever else you might have in your fall garden!

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place oats in a food processor and pulse until fine like flour. Remove. Place beets in the food processor bowl and pulse until roughly chopped. Add in rice, chickpeas, garlic and onion and pulse until well combined and chopped. Add egg, spices and oat flour and pulse a few times to combine.

Using plastic gloves (unless you're not worried about dying your hands purple!) shape 6 patties out of the beet mixture and place on baking sheet. Roast for about 30 minutes. Remove and let cool 5 minutes.

Lightly oil the insides of the burger puns and sear in a hot skillet until toasted. Smear in some pesto and goat cheese, then add a layer of greens. Add beet patties and enjoy!

Note, these patties are even tastier (and hold together a bit better) the next day. I reheat mine in the toaster oven for about 5 minutes at 350 degrees.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Recipes I've been digging (into!) lately

Well, Halloween is tomorrow and I nearly made it through the month of October with just ONE post. Embarrassing! So, in the interest of sharing what we've been loving lately (even though there are no exciting new recipes to post) here are some faves:

Cooking Light's Mexican Chocolate Cream Pie - I made this twice in a week. Both times we demolished it. Do add red pepper to taste - a little goes a long way and before you know it, the back of your throat is burning, and the only solution is more whipped cream!

I REALLY wanted some baked pumpkin oatmeal a few weeks ago after seeing this post on Kath Eats. I didn't want bites though, I wanted a nice, big vat of it, and this recipe I found by Lynn's Kitchen Adventures (new to me blog) hit the spot! Made it twice, once about 2/3 of a recipe, and the second time a full recipe. Do be mindful of the dimensions of your pan though - I used a 4 x 9 (ish) dish making the oatmeal deeper and thus took another 15 minutes to cook. Great to bake the night before, then let it warm up while you take your dog on a walk or do your hair. Great topped with nut butter, maple syrup and coconut flakes!

Butternut Squash and Coconut Soup with Shrimp from WFM was a surprising hit! I love bsquash soup and make it a few times a year - always mixing up the seasonings to keep things interesting. I was unsure how I'd like it with the addition of shrimp -but adding even less than a pound made the soup feel substantial.

The ultimate make-ahead dinner award goes to... Char Siu Pork Roast from Cooking Light! Reasons why this dinner rocked:
  • No dicing of the meat required beforehand
  • No searing required
  • Marinate overnight for easy flavor (and no veggie chopping!)
  • If you have a programmable rice cooker like me, you also have rice ready when you get home
  • Bonus points if you trim Brussels sprouts the night before and then roast them as an easy side while you cook down the sauce
What's cooking in your kitchen lately?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Menu October 13, 2013

Happy October! I've been too busy enjoying cool weather, rainy weekends, baby showers (my sister's!) and trips to New Orleans. But trust me, there have been plenty of tasty meals in between. Take this weekend, for instance. Something about a rainy weekend in Austin is so unique and magical (except for maybe those who were at ACL this weekend - sorry about that!), it's like snow. When that happens, it pretty much cries for a day in the kitchen. So, I roasted a chicken and prepped food for the week. Delightful! I hope your week is too:

And now for the delightful part - it's our two year anniversary on Monday! We're kicking off festivities with lots of tasty eats and fun this weekend.

Butternut squash, lentil and goat cheese salad

2 cups butternut squash cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup green lentils
1 clove garlic
4 ounces greens (I used a mix of spinach, kale, chard and mustards)
2 ounces Pure Luck chevre (or your favorite goat cheese), crumbled
2 tablespoons pickled mustard seed maple syrup (recipe on Ladies' Home Journal)

Preheat oven to 374. Toss squash with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast 35 minutes. Meanwhile, place lentils in 6 cups of cold water with garlic clove and salt and peppper. Bring to a boil, lower temperature and cover, cook for 15-20 minutes. Strain and remove garlic clove.

In a large bowl, add greens, goat cheese and dressing. Top with squash and lentils and toss. Enjoy!