Monthly Archives: March 2015

Taco Tuesday Solved

tacos

So easy. So cheesy. So…yeah baby!

Yay—taco night! It sounds so easy, so crowd pleasing, so autopilot for a busy weeknight. It is easy if you and your people prefer soft shell tacos. But let’s talk about hard shell tacos. The opening is too narrow and the shells are too brittle, so if you do end up creating your masterpiece in one piece, it explodes on the first bite. No bueno.

Even less bueno are the proposed solutions, helpful techniques like grabbing each taco with tongs and frying it in oil. Honestly, I’d rather sort rogue socks from the laundry than fry individual tacos. However you say “not happenin’” in Spanish is how I’m dealing with those tacos.

Bevin Wallace out in Colorado has solved this for us on her Real life Delicious blog. The key is filling the shells, standing them against each other in a baking dish, covering them with a loving sprinkle of cheese and then baking them. You get slightly softened hard shell tacos that are totally easy to eat without losing half the filling on the plate.

Bevin is super healthy and organic and fills her with elk meat or grass fed ground beef. The slacker (my) version is to take out the word organic everywhere, and use what you’ve got, which in my case most recently was ground turkey. Non meat eaters can use whatever non meat feels right. Other keys to the recipe are the veggies (they keep us honest on taco night) and the refried beans in the filling mixture that sort of hold it all together. And oh yeah, you can make them ahead and bring the dish over to pop in the oven. It’s all good stuff. Try these, and go sort socks with all your spare time.

Baked Tacos

à la Real Life Delicious
Makes 10-12 tacos

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. lean ground meat (I use ground elk, but grass-fed beef, bison, or pasture-raised turkey are also good)
  • 1 tbsp. taco seasoning (Slackers, open that yellow Ortega packet)
  • 1 tsp. salt (omit if you are using the package)
  • 1 13.5 box organic refried beans, or 1 can refried beans
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, chopped (try to buy organic because peppers are on the Dirty Dozen)
  • 1 package organic taco shells
  • 1/2 cup shredded pepper Jack (or sharp cheddar) cheese

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the meat in a large skillet, add the taco seasoning and salt, and brown over medium-high heat. When the meat is almost done, add the chopped vegetables and cook until soft. Stir in the beans and heat through. Make sure the meat, veggies, and beans are well incorporated. Bring a large rectangular baking dish and the taco shells over next to the stove and spoon the meat mixture into the taco shells (about 3/4 full). Stand the tacos in the baking dish as you fill them. They will want to fall over until they are all lined up in there fairly tightly. After you’ve filled the tacos, sprinkle the cheese over them and bake for 10 min.

Bringing it:

Stack those bad boys, cover the dish with foil and proceed to the party where you will be greeted with mucho gusto.

 

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It’s Maple Syrup Time (almost)!

Sap IHere in New Hampshire, we continue to wake up to single digit temperatures and lots of snow still covering the ground. Each day, we don our heavy jackets, wool hats, and warm gloves and head out to the blast cold air hitting our faces, just like we’ve done every day for the past several months. Although most of us love winter, this routine is getting old. We are longing for a day when we can walk outside and feel, well, warm! 

Where we live, there are many serious and not-so-serious maple syrup producers. This is the time of year when you walk into the local country store and hear comments about when the sap is going to run. What causes sap to flow? Well, I’m no physicist, but it has to do with temperatures rising above freezing (key word = “above”). These warmer temps of cause positive pressure to develop in the tree. This pressure causes the sap to flow out of the tree through wound or tap holes. During cooler periods, when temps fall below freezing, suction develops, drawing water into the tree through the roots. This replenishes the sap in the tree allowing it to flow again during the next warm period. So, at a very basic level, warmer temps are needed to make this magic happen; hence the constant chatter about when the sap will run. There is still time and hopefully it will come together in the next couple weeks to make the sap run, and run, and run some more.

In the meantime, I decided to break out the pure New Hampshire maple syrup I had on hand to make this delicious salad dressing.  This is getting me in the mood for spring because it will happen – I promise! 

Enjoy and happy spring everyone.

Ingredients

Salad:
12 cups spring greens
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese or gorgonzola
3/4 cup pecans, caramelized*
1 cup fresh strawberries or orange slices

Vinaigrette:
1 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

Method

In a large salad bowl, toss spring greens with cheese, pecans, and fruit. To prepare the vinaigrette, mix together all ingredients except olive oil until well blended. Add oil in a slow, steady stream until incorporated. Toss greens with dressing.

*To caramelize pecans, spread pecans on baking tray and roast in 350 degree oven until just starting to turn brown (about 2-3 minutes). Remove and toss with enough melted butter to lightly coat. Sprinkle nuts with 2 tsp white sugar and 1 tsp salt and toss again. Return to oven for a minute or two, being careful not to burn.

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Marcharitas

marg

Baby, it’s still cold outside. But there are ways to warm up your insides.

I held this post until after St Patty’s Day out of respect for beer and cabbage, of which I have none to offer. OK. That is a bold face lie. I held it because I am quite far behind on life at the moment. That, for me, is March. And that is why margaritas come in to play right about now. They’re green. They’re full of the promise of spring. I am including three different recipes, from three friends in the ski world who fully appreciate the filthy car, fast food, too-many-hotel-room frenzy that is March.

A brief history on each:

Speedy is the mayor of Mt Hood in the summer, and a Lake Placid transplant in the winter. He is a constant in the ski world, the ultimate connector and a friend to every struggling ski racer who “will work for training space.” His rocks marg is a western classic—tart with a touch of citrus and, of course, Patron.

Tania, my Rocky Mountain correspondent and fellow ski mom, is the master of turning a ski lodge into your favorite diner and saloon. A spicy westerner, she never met a jalapeno she did not like, and for this margarita she thinks ahead and infuses tequila with hot peppers of happiness. It is seriously worth the extra step and time!

PK has the only pool in the neighborhood, so he is always prepared to entertain. Inside fridge, outside fridge, fridge entirely devoted to seltzer, stand alone ice machine…he does not mess around. He always has something on hand to please every age and taste, as well as lots of towels. His frozen margaritas are as easy as it gets, and always perfectly refreshing.

So here you go—trés margaritas to get your spring off to a good start and head scurvy off at the pass. Arriba, abajo, al centro, pa’ dentro!

Speedy’s Organic Margarita Mixer

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 squirt of agave
  • 1/8 cup organic orange mango juice
  • 1 shot Patron tequila
  • 1 squirt of orange liqueur

Method:

Stir up first 4 ingredients and shake.
Fill short cocktail glass with crushed ice.
Add Patron.
Add orange liqueur.
Stir well.
Toast Speedy and enjoy!

Tania’s Burning Hell Margarita

Takes a week, and worth every moment

Ingredients:

  • TequilaFill a big jar (like a mason jar) with good quality (but not fancy fancy) silver tequila.  Try Camarena Silver.
    Add 4 jalapeños, seeded and cut into strips.
    Add one Habenero also seeded (wear gloves!)
    Add strips of seeded red peppers for color if desired.
    Leave jar alone for a week.  After a few days (and well after breakfast), sample it to see if you have made it spicy enough. If it’s too spicy, add more tequila. If you’re feeling brave add jalapeños halfway through the hang-out stage. Strain to remove peppers.
  • Simple syrup:1 cup of sugar
    1 cup of water
    Boil until sugar dissolves.
    Cool
  • Lemon/Lime JuiceSqueeze all the fresh lemons and limes you have.  At least 6 of each (fight scurvy—use the real stuff). Mix the fresh juice with enough simple syrup to balance the sour. Add a little water to be humane.
  • Triple Sec

Method:

In a big glass filled with ice add two shots of tequila, one shot of triple sec and the juice/sugar mixture to taste. It’s good policy to warn your guests that this has the chance to be very spicy.  But it’s also pretty funny not to, especially if you doubled up on the habanero.

PK’s Frozen Margarita

We’re dealing with proportions here, not absolutes. Amounts are based on what size can of limeade you start with.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can limeade
  • 1 can tequila
  • 1 can Bud Light or other light beer
  • Ice

Method:

Combine first three ingredients in a blender, refilling limeade can with tequila then beer. Fill blender with ice. Process until slurpeelicious. Find a spot by the pool. Sip. Repeat.

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Flower Power! Cauliflower Farro Salad

The new kale?

The new kale?

You’ve probably heard the buzz around cauliflower being billed as the new kale. Now, I love cauliflower, don’t get me wrong…. but the new kale? That sounds like a stretch, for me anyway. I think of kale as so pretty and versatile. I think of cauliflower as so muted and routine. Could I be missing something? I decided to do some homework and find out what all the buzz is about. It didn’t take much Googling before I found a plethora of recipes and photos that were fun, interesting, colorful, delicious and healthy.   You can grill it like a steak, crush it into a pizza crust, mash it instead of potatoes, and much more. It takes on many roles without a hitch and everyone is surprised when they learn the “secret” ingredient. Not to mention, the health benefits of cauliflower are plentiful. It’s full of vitamin C, lots of the B’s, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin K. And it is low in calories. What more could you want?

Try this recipe and don’t forget (from a previous blog post), farro is chewy. The “high chew factor” is good for fast eaters because you have to chew it a lot to get it down! Enjoy and send us your favorite cauli-flower-power recipes!

Ingredients

Roasted Cauliflower:
1 large head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Light sprinkle of fine-grain sea salt

Garlicky Farro:
1 cup uncooked farro, rinsed
2 tsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/4 tsp fine-grain sea salt 

Everything else:
15 pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
1/4 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed and roughly chopped
2 oz feta cheese, crumbled (a heaping half cup)
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 avocado, sliced into thin strips
4 handfuls leafy greens (spinach, arugula, spring greens, other)

Method

To roast cauliflower, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Toss the cauliflower florets with olive oil, red pepper flakes, and a sprinkle of sea salt. Roast for 25-30 minutes, tossing occasionally until the cauliflower is tender and golden on the edges.

To cook the farro, in a medium saucepan, combine rinsed farro and 3 cups of water. Bring water to a boil, then reduce burner to low and simmer for 35-40 minutes (if you are using pearled farro, it takes only about 15 minute so to cook).   Once cooked, drain off any excess water and toss with olive oil, garlic, and sea salt (I like to roast the garlic in my toaster oven for a couple minutes before chopping but raw garlic is fine too).

In a large serving bowl, toss together roasted cauliflower, cooked farro, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and lemon juice. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed. 

Divide avocados and greens among salad plates. Top with generous amount of cauliflower and farro salad. Finish plates with an extra squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil if desired.

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Date Night

CROPDATE

Just another bad, desperate date picture. Imagine the real deal with greek yogurt (not Yoplait), big flaky sea salt (not Mortons) and a real photographer (not me). By the way, even as stand ins these were still darned good.

There are certain things I can’t make when I am going to be home alone for a long stretch. One is bread. I learned this the day after I received a bread machine for my birthday—something I had in fact pleaded for. I was single at the time, recently out of a career and not entirely hopeful about my future. A bread machine was the worst thing to add to this mix. I made a loaf, I ate the loaf, I wiped out the machine repackaged it and brought it back to the store. If you happened to buy a bread machine around the spring of ‘95 at the Reno Macy’s it may have been test driven. Sorry.

That’s the long way of saying that I’ve discovered yet another thing I cannot make when I am alone. Sauteed, salted dates. Really, they are ridiculous. Salty, sweet, creamy and even crunchy (if you cook them too long the way I like to). Also they are easy to make, to serve and to eat. They are very quick, pretty healthy, and totally delicious.

The only beef I have with the recipe featured on Food52 is that they call for unpitted dates and then suggest luscious variations, all using pitted dates. Now really, who wants to deal with date pits, especially at a party? Let’s just leave them out. So here you go. Happy date night!

Sauteed Salted Dates

Serves as many as you care to serve

Ingredients:

  • sharp extra-virgin olive oil.
  • pitted medjool dates (Deglet will do, but medjool are A team material. (count on 4 to 5 per person as an appetizer)
  • flaky sea salt. The good stuff here–you need those big flakes.

Method:

Heat 1/4 inch olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Fill the pan with dates and cook, turning them a few times, just until they’ve warmed through. (They burn easily, so don’t overdo it if you want soft dates, but do overdo it if you want some crunch) Serve them on a plate with flaky sea salt.

Notes:

These can be served as is or… with warm bread to sop up the oil, on a shallow plate spread with good plain greek yogurt and drizzled with the leftover oil in the pan, with a wedge of blue cheese and a sprinkling of nuts. Get totally pro and add pistachios to the pan as you heat the dates. Or just saute and salt those babies and be done with it. Be as plain or as fancy as you like.

There are no amounts here, which is key. If you are alone and feeling vulnerable to sweet salty overindulgence, make just a few. If you are having a party, make a whole bunch. Leftover dates, if you manage to resist, are good any time of day. I know. I’ve tried. A-ny-time.

 

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