Monthly Archives: February 2012

Project Veggie: Day 14 – Stuffed Peppers With A Kick

Anybody who knows me knows that potatoes are one of my very favorite things.  I would eat them in a boat, I would eat them with a goat.  In a box, with a fox, on a plane or a train.  You get the picture.  Cooked any way, anywhere.  I love them.  When I was pregnant, there was about a month where I single-handedly went through a 10 pound bag every week.  I’m not kidding.  So it’s no surprise that my children are also crazy about potatoes, which is just good news for me.

Bell peppers have been great this year, sweet, juicy and – at least at my grocery store – on sale a lot.  This is great, because in my house, it’s one of our favorite things, both for cooking with and snacking on.  Did you know a red bell pepper has more vitamin C than an orange?

Combine these two favorite foods with some hot chile pepper, Indian spices and some lemony zing and you have one of my favorite potato recipes ever.  It’s also one of the prettiest dishes too.  Although this is from my Indian Home Cooking cookbook, it’s not like anything I’ve ever had in an Indian restaurant, and really doesn’t taste like Indian food to me.  But it uses some of the spices and wherever it hails from, it’s just plain delicious.  If you don’t like spicy food, eliminate the chile pepper, it does add quite a bit of heat.

Stuffed Peppers with a Kick

Stuffed Peppers with a Kick
(from Indian Home Cooking, by Suvir Saran and Stephanie Lyness) 

1 1/2 pounds red potatoes
4 bell peppers – orange, yellow or red
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 fresh serrano chile, minced
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp. chopped fresh mint
Juice of one lemon
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 egg whisked with a pinch of salt & cayenne pepper

Peel and cut potatoes into cubes.  Cover with cold water and boil until very tender – about 20 minutes.  Drain.  Meanwhile, cut around the stems of the peppers, removing the tops and scraping out the ribs and seeds.  Set aside.  Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a dry skillet over medium high heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant, just 1-2 minutes.  Coarsely grind in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Transfer potatoes to a large bowl.  Mash them.  Add the ground spices, cayenne, green chile, cilantro, mint, lemon juice, salt & pepper.  Stir to blend.  Taste and add salt if needed.  Spoon mixture into peppers.

Preheat oven to 400˚. Heat oil in a non-stick frying pan on the stove.  Dip the tops of the peppers in the beaten egg and place top down in the oil.  Cook until the egg has browned and formed a crust, about 2-3 minutes.  Then turn the peppers right side up.  If your frying pan is ovenproof, you can use the same pan, or transfer to a casserole dish and bake in the oven until peppers are tender, about 25-30 minutes.

Serve with fruit & veggies, or salad.  Incidentally, they are also a great side dish for meat but they are quite filling as a main dish as well.

Potato Stuffed Peppers with veggies & fruit

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Project Veggie: Day 13 – Wagon Wheels with Artichoke Pesto

When I planned dinner last night, I half expected Claire to hate it.  She doesn’t like artichokes.  But I think she should.  Artichokes are good.  And if she doesn’t like them, that means I don’t get to eat them, so she needs to start liking them.

Jeffrey Steingarten, author of The Man Who Ate Everything, had a problem.  When he was appointed as food writer for Vogue there were many foods he didn’t like.  So he came up with a plan to teach himself to like these foods, in order to better do his job.  He made a list, and started eating.  He discovered through exposure (at least 10 times in some cases) he could teach himself to like a food he previously didn’t care for.  In 6 months, he had crossed all of the foods off his list.

I’ve used Jeffrey’s method on my kids, and on myself.  And it works!  While Luke has never been a picky eater, Claire had several foods she wouldn’t eat.  Among them, seafood.  After cooking fish for her about 50 different ways, she now likes almost all seafood.  I think it’s sort of like a musical artist or actor, sometimes it’s that one song or role that strikes home and then you’re suddenly a fan.  Recipes are like that.  You hit on the right one, and voila!  You discover the magic of salmon or spinach or frog legs.

So back to artichokes.  Claire wasn’t a fan.  She’d eat a fresh one, steamed, peeling off the leaves and dipping in sauce.  But when it came to using them in recipes she usually turned up her nose.  I think part of the problem is that most recipes use canned artichokes that are packed in brine, and she didn’t like the twang.  This recipe uses frozen artichoke hearts and much to my surprise, Claire absolutely loved it!  She made the loudest yummy noises of all of us.  And Luke, well he was just happy about the wagon wheels, as he happily ate two bowls of it.

Wagon Wheels with Artichoke Pesto

Wagon Wheels with Artichoke Pesto
(from Everyday Pasta, by Giada De Laurentiis)

1 pound wagon wheel pasta (rotelle)
1 package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parley, lightly packed
1/2 cup toasted walnuts (lightly toast in dry skillet or in a pan in the oven for a few minutes)
Zest & juice of one lemon
1 garlic clove
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Cook pasta until tender but still firm to the bite, about 8-10 minutes.  Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water.  Meanwhile, in a food processor combine the artichokes, parsley, walnuts, lemon zest and juice, garlic, salt & pepper.  Chop the ingredients fine, stopping the machine to scrape down the sides.  With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil.  Transfer the artichoke pesto to a large serving bowl and stir in the cheese.  Add the warm pasta and toss to combine.  If needed, add the reserved pasta water 1/4 cup at a time until it’s the saucy consistency you like.  Adjust salt & pepper if necessary and serve with lemon wedges.

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Project Veggie: Day 12 – Salmon Cakes

Last night was a fun night of watching movies, playing Twister and cooking together.  Claire wrangled asparagus and whipped up sauce while I threw together some salmon cakes to die for.  Luke helped immensely by tasting all the ingredients along the way.

Among the indispensable things in my kitchen are my Moosewood cookbooks.  Moosewood Restaurant is located in Ithaca, New York and is known for its vegetarian menu.  Long before I was interested in vegetarian cooking, I fell in love with these cookbooks.  I have two – New Favorites, and Simple Suppers.  They are both amazing.  Creative yet approachable recipes that are absolutely delicious.  One of my favorite recipes is their Salmon Cakes.  I’ve never seen a recipe for these that had mashed potatoes and other veggies in it and they are SO GOOD!  When the kids were younger, they were sometimes iffy about liking fish, but they would always eat these.  The recipe calls for fresh salmon, which is awesome, but it also works well with canned salmon as a substitute.  The sauce is my own invention.  I usually make some version of it whenever I make fish or crab cakes to drizzle over the top or dip bites into (or both).  Claire named it “Fishy Sauce.”  So there you go.  These paired up perfectly with simple roasted asparagus and tomatoes.

Salmon Cakes & Roasted Asparagus

Moosewood Salmon Cakes
(from Moosewood Restaurant – New Favorites)

2 1/2 cups diced potatoes
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrots
1 1/2 pounds salmon, cut into pieces
1 egg
1 tbsp. mayo
1 tbsp. dijon mustard
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. fresh herbs (I used parsley)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 cup dry breadcrumbs
lemon wedges

For Fishy Sauce:

1/4 cup mayo
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 tsp. capers
1 tsp. minced red chile
salt & pepper

Put potatoes, onion & carrot in covered sauce pan with water to cover.  Bring to boil, then simmer for 10 minutes until veggies are tender.  Place fish on top and cook for 7 minutes.  Drain.  Mash veggies and fish with potato masher.  Add egg, mayo, mustard lemon juice, herbs, garlic, salt & pepper, and 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs.  Mix thoroughly.  Heat olive oil in skillet.  Pat & shape mixture into 6 cakes (sometimes more depending on how big you want them).  Sprinkle both sides with bread crumbs and cook 4 minutes on one side.  Flip and cook 2-3 minutes on other side.  Serve with lemon wedges or “fishy sauce.”  For sauce, combine all ingredients and stir until smooth.

Roasted Asparagus

Roasted Asparagus & Grape Tomatoes

Spread out asparagus and tomatoes in single layer on a cookie sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper and lemon zest (about 1 tsp).  Roast at 375˚ for 8-10 minutes.

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Project Veggie: Day 11 – Pasta with Spinach & Goat Cheese

For Christmas, my sister gave me a new cookbook.  “Everyday Pasta”, by Giada de Laurentiis.  She also gave me some really cool pasta from Italy.  She knows me so well.  I love pasta.  And it loves me.  I look at Giada, who is absolutely gorgeous, and I wonder how she can possibly eat any of the delicious food she makes.  I’m assuming she just doesn’t eat as much of it as I do.  I’m also assuming she saves the really decadent recipes for special occasions.  One thing I like about this cookbook is the lighter options that are included.  It’s nice to be able to enjoy pasta without it being a total diet killer every time.

Last night I made Orecchiette with Greens and Goat Cheese.  Salad meets pasta, lots of zippy flavors but very simple.  One of the things I love about this recipe is you can make it in individual servings.  That allowed us to adjust some of the ingredients for each of our tastes.  A tiny bit of goat cheese for Claire, lots for me.  Giada’s recipe calls for Mediterranean salad greens, but I used fresh baby spinach instead, as it’s what I had on hand.  I’ve made it both ways and both are great, but truthfully I prefer the spinach.  Orecchiette is a small, round, shell-type pasta.  I believe it means “little ears” in Italian.  They do kind of look like little ears.  Tasty little ears.  If you can’t find it, or have something against eating ears, you can substitute shells or another smallish shape pasta instead.

Orecchiette with Greens and Goat Cheese

Orecchiette with Greens and Goat Cheese
(from Everyday Pasta, by Giada de Laurentiis)

1 pound orecchiette or other pasta
8 oz. fresh baby spinach (or mixed salad greens)
1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (packed in olive oil)
3 oz. (about 1/3 cup) crumbled fresh goat cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper to taste

Cook pasta until tender but firm to the bite, 8-10 min.  Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.  Place salad greens in a serving bowl and top with warm pasta and 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water.  Toss to combine with the greens.  Add sun-dried tomatoes, cheeses, salt & pepper.  Toss to combine. Add more pasta water necessary. (If you’re making this for one, or doing individual servings, use about a cup of dry pasta per serving, and just add a few tablespoons of pasta water to start).

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Project Veggie: Day 10 – Gourmet Grilled Cheese

I went to a Greek restaurant once where I ordered flaming cheese.  They poured some sort of alcohol over it and set it on fire.  When the fire when out you had a lump of melted bliss on a plate.  At my house I try not to set things on fire intentionally.  But melted cheese still makes me happy.  I was craving some so I made grilled cheese sandwiches. Whoever invented the sandwich is a genius.  That quick, easy, thrown together lunch (or breakfast or dinner).  A sandwich can be a quickie meal, or it can be art.  Yes…ART!  With a little imagination and a few things from the pantry, you can elevate a humble grilled cheese sandwich to mouth-watering, edible art.

In Taos, New Mexico there used to be a little cafe where I had a grilled mozzarella and olive tapenade sandwich.  I never got the recipe from them but I immediately went home and started experimenting, trying to replicate it.  I don’t know if I got it exactly the same as theirs but I came close and it’s amazing.  Up until then, I thought olive tapenade was just one of those fancy things you ordered in a restaurant for an appetizer.  I had no idea it was so easy to make.  It’s just a paste made from olives, and a few other tasty things.  And who ever thought of putting it on a sandwich?  I don’t know, but whoever it was would get a big smooch right on the lips if they were standing in front of me.

I made a big batch of Olive Tapenade and added sun-dried tomatoes, just for fun and because I had them.  I have lots left so now I guess I’ll just have to find something fun to do with the rest of it.  Hmmm…I feel some experimenting coming on.

Grilled Mozzarella & Olive Tapenade Sandwich

Grilled Mozzarella & Olive Tapenade Sandwich

Sourdough or rustic french bread
Sliced mozzarella cheese (preferably fresh mozzarella)
Olive tapenade (about a tablespoon per sandwich) – Recipe below or you can buy it in the grocery store.

Heat your skillet on medium heat.  Lightly butter one side of both pieces of bread.  Put one down in the pan and cover with mozzarella.  Take the other piece of bread and spread tapenade on the unbuttered side.  Put the olive side down on the cheese.  Cook a couple minutes on each side, until golden brown and melty.

Olive & Sun-dried Tomato Tapenade

I jar pitted kalamata olives
1 tbsp. capers
6-8 sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
1 tsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. fresh basil
1 tsp. orange zest
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper

Blend all ingredients in a food processor.  Store leftovers in airtight container in the fridge.  It will keep for several weeks.

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Project Veggie: Day 9 – Sesame Noodles & Broccoli Stir Fry

Traditional Chinese food is something I have not had much luck replicating perfectly at home.  I’ve tried.  I’ve used recipes.  I’ve got cookbooks.  I’ve had some successes certainly, yummy results…sure, but tasting like true Chinese take out…no dice.  I don’t know if it’s the ingredients, the equipment, the know-how.  Probably all three.  But I’ve decided to stop trying to figure it out.  Some things should remain a mystery.  So when I’m really craving Chinese I usually order out from the place a couple blocks from my house, and when I walk in the door to pick it up, the owner yells out, “Welcome home!”  Then he hands me my food and says “Here you go, Cutie!”  I get mouth-watering take-out and a compliment in less than 10 minutes, for under 10 bucks.  Can’t beat it.  So I don’t try.  Instead, I do many Asian-inspired stir fry type things.  They have less to do with recipes or ethnic authenticity and more to do with blending some of my favorite flavors with whatever happens to be in my fridge at the time.

My son Luke is a freak for noodles.  Always has  been.  I’ve been feeding my kids ethnic food – really, whatever I was eating – ever since they started eating food.  As a result, they like pretty much everything now.  But when they were little, I started out simple, introducing them to new flavors slowly and adding more as we went along.  Sesame noodles are something I’ve been making for them since they were small.  It’s perfect for kids (or picky adults) because there are no weird ingredients.  Simple and basic, they are perfect by themselves or with any stir fry.  They are delicious served hot, cold, or in between.  This time I paired them with a spicy broccoli stir fry.

Sesame Noodles & Broccoli Stir Fry

Sesame Noodles

1 pkg. thin spaghetti or angel hair noodles
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds (you can buy them toasted or toast them yourself a minute or two in a skillet on the stove)
2 tbsp. sliced green onions

Cook noodles according to package directions.  Do not overcook!  Drain and rinse (I don’t normally rinse pasta but I usually do with this since I prefer it at room temperature and don’t like it to stick together).  Add other ingredients and toss.


Broccoli Stir Fry

1 tbsp. canola oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. minced ginger
2 cups of broccoli florets
4 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 yellow pepper, sliced
1-2 tsp. garlic chile sauce (found in the Asian section of the grocery store)
1 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 tsp. sugar

Heat oil in skillet or wok over med-high heat.  Add garlic & ginger and saute a minute until fragrant.  Add veggies, stir fry for a few minutes.  Add garlic chile sauce (add more or less depending on how spicy you like it), sesame oil and sugar.  Continue to stir fry until veggies are crisp-tender.  Serve with noodles.

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Project Veggie: Day 8 – Huevos Rancheros

There are days when I don’t feel like cooking.  When my alarm goes off, I stick my head out, scent the air, and want to crawl back under my covers with a good book I haven’t had time to read.  Yesterday was one of those days.  Stupid head cold.  One kid home from school sick, and me feeling more than a little on the crappy side myself.  Ugh.  But people still want to eat.  Kids tend to complain if you don’t feed them.  And rightly so.  So I reached into my bag of tricks for a meal I could make in about five minutes that didn’t require a trip to the store.  I had eggs.  I had the double batch of salsa I made the other day.  I had tortillas.  You can see where I’m going with this.  Huevos Rancheros.  Spanish for eggs on a ranch?  I live in a ranch style house.  Close enough.  And spicy enough to maybe clear my sinuses.  Yay!

There are many different versions of this dish – some fancy, some down & dirty.  This is a quick, simple version that I make often, even when I have more time and energy.  It’s fast, it’s delicious, and you only make one pan dirty.  I had dinner on the table and was back to being curled up in my big yellow chair in no time flat.

Huevos Rancheros with Roasted Potatoes & Pineapple

Huevos Rancheros

2 cups salsa (you can use homemade or store bought, whatever you like) – Click here for my salsa recipe
1-2 eggs per person (I did 6 in one pan, breaking 2 into each well)
shredded jack or cheddar cheese

Add salsa to large skillet and heat to boiling.  Make wells in the salsa and break eggs gently into each.  Reduce heat to low and cover.  Poach eggs for 3 minutes.  Remove from heat & sprinkle with cheese.  Meanwhile, warm tortillas in oven.  Scoop eggs, with some of the surrounding salsa, onto the warm tortillas and serve.  I served these with roasted potatoes (see below for recipe) and fresh pineapple slices.

The eggs poach right in the salsa

Garlic-Cumin Roasted Potatoes

1 pound new potatoes or red potatoes
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic paste (or minced garlic)
Salt & pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

Mix cumin, garlic, salt & pepper, and olive oil.  Toss potatoes in the mixture and spread out in a single layer on a cookie sheet.  Bake at 400˚ for about 20 minutes, stirring once partway through.

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Project Veggie: Day 7 – Potato Broccoli Soup

This marks the end of week one of Project Veggie.  I’m happy to say that I’ve felt great, and it has not been difficult at all to stick to the plan.  We’ve eaten some great food, and enjoyed cooking and planning meals together.  I have even discovered I enjoy writing these little blogs and get a tiny (huge!) thrill when I find out people are reading it, commenting, subscribing…how cool is that?

At the beginning of January, I started a “Biggest Loser” contest with my family.  Hoping to lose a few pounds, I counted calories and started exercising.  In the first 6 weeks I lost 3 or 4 pounds…and gained them…and lost them again.  I went to my dreaded weekly weigh-in yesterday and in the last week, I’ve lost 2.5 pounds!  My exercise this week consisted of making it 20 minutes into a 1 hour Bob Harper DVD where he promised to transform my body (didn’t happen this time, but I’m still hopeful), one 25 minute walk, and a couple of hours of “Just Dance” on the wii with Claire.  I didn’t count a single calorie .  So, I could be wrong, but I’m thinking all the veggies and no meat might have something to do with it.  We’ll see how the scale looks next week.

Yesterday I started doing battle with a little head cold.  Which meant two things.  Dinner needed to be something easy, quick and warm & comforting.  I guess that’s four things.

Back in art school my roommate Terry taught me how to make potato soup, and being one of a very small handful of things we actually knew how to cook we ate it a lot.  I’ve played with the recipe some since then, but it’s still one of my go-to soups for when I just want a belly full of love and warmth.  Recently I changed up the recipe some to add more veggies, turning it into a potato broccoli soup.  Of course I didn’t write down the recipe, throwing things in the pot at random as I am wont to do.  So I was determined to do my best to reproduce that lovely concoction and actually put it in writing this time.  I think this batch actually turned out even better than the first one.

A bowl full of love.

Potato Broccoli Soup

3 leeks, sliced – white and light green parts only
1/2 red or orange bell pepper, diced
1 stick butter
4-6 russet potatoes, peeled & cubed
1-2 cups chopped broccoli
approximately 4 cups of milk (I used 1% but any kind you have will work)
1-2 tsp. salt
1-2 tsp. pepper
1-2 tsp. dill
pinch of paprika
cheddar cheese for topping (optional)

Saute leeks and peppers with butter in a skillet over medium heat.  When they are soft, put in a blender or food processor with a cup of milk and puree.  Meanwhile, put potatoes in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil.  Boil 5 minutes or so, then add broccoli.  Cook another 10-15 minutes until veggies are soft.  Drain off most of the water, put back on stove.  Add leek & pepper puree to the potato mixture.  Add another cup of milk, and use a potato masher to mash around in there.  I like to break it down, but still leave plenty of chunks.  Feel free to puree the whole thing, part of it, or  none of it, depending on the texture of soup you like.  I prefer the masher method.  Add seasonings, starting with one teaspoon each of salt, pepper & dill and adding more if needed.  Add a pinch of paprika.  Add more milk until it is the consistency you like.  It’s easier to add more than to take it away, so add a little at a time, stirring in between.  Heat through and serve.  I like mine with some shredded cheese on top and some toasted bread on the side.

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Project Veggie: Day 6 – Day of the Taco

A friend of mine told me a few days ago that I was nuts for doing this vegetarian thing.  Every week his family does taco night.  He asked how you could possibly do a taco night without meat??  Seriously?  This poor individual is obviously suffering from a severe lack of imagination.  In my opinion, you can put just about anything in a tortilla and call it a taco.  In fact, it’s one of my favorite foods for that very reason.  A tortilla is just a delivery device for all sorts of goodness.

Yesterday was Day of the Taco.  The kids didn’t have school so we slept a little late, had a nice, lazy morning.  Around 10 or so, I decided to make breakfast tacos.  Some scrambled eggs, green onions, salsa, and the last of the leftover coleslaw (oh yeah, I said coleslaw!) and we were set.  They were amazing, and took mere moments to make.

Breakfast tacos

As Presidents Day wore on, there was some whining about being bored.  Not by me, who had plenty of work and mom things to do.  But the kiddos were feeling at loose ends.  Normally when they tell me they’re bored I send them outside to pick up dog poop.  But it was raining, so I took pity on them.  Project time.  I decided for our tacos tonight we’d make homemade tortillas.  We’ve done them once before, and they are amazing!  I love corn tortillas, but I don’t love the way they crack when you fold them.  The fresh ones don’t do that.  Plus you can add additional flavors to make them even more tasty.  And although I say “project” they are really not difficult to make, but they do take a little extra time.

I’m not sure where the exact line is between a taco and a fajita, so I’ll call these fajita tacos.  With the pan-sauteed veggies, they definitely have a fajita-ish quality about them.  To round out the Mexican feast, we made a quicky black bean salad (yummy protein!) and some homemade salsa in my trusty food processor.  I’ve been making my own salsa for a long time, and I like it better than anything I’ve found in a jar.

My beautiful fajita tacos with black bean salad

Fajita Tacos

4 oz. button mushrooms
2 poblano peppers, sliced
1/2 red onion, sliced
1 orange or yellow or red bell pepper, or some combo of those, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup frozen or fresh corn kernels
shredded jack or cheddar cheese
sliced avocado

Heat skillet to medium high heat.  Add a tbsp. of olive or canola oil.  Saute the peppers, onions, mushrooms and garlic, stirring constantly, just 2-3 minutes until they are crisp-tender.  They should still have a little crunch.  Add corn and saute until heated through.  Add salt & pepper to taste.  Build your taco the way you like it.  I like to start with some of the pepper mixture, top with cheese, salsa and avocado – usually overfilling it so much I make a complete mess of myself when I fold it up and eat it.  But that’s part of the fun.

April's Awesome Salsa

April’s Awesome Salsa

1/3 onion
1-2 cloves garlic
3-4 tomatillos
1/2 – 1 red or green jalapeno (I use both if I have them)
1-2 tbsp. lime juice
a handful of fresh cilantro (1/3 cup? – I usually don’t measure, just throw some in)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes (or regular diced tomatoes) with juice

In a food processor or blender add onion, garlic, tomatillos, jalapeno, lime juice & cilantro.  Pulse or blend until evenly chopped up.  Add tomatoes, cumin and salt and give it a whirl until it’s all combined.  Makes about 2 cups.  It will last several weeks in your fridge.

Fresh Chili-Lime Tortillas

2 cups masa flour
1 1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. lime zest

In a bowl combine all ingredients.  Mix until it forms a ball of dough.  Add a little more water if it’s too dry to form into a ball.

Not dry & crumbly. Not wet & sticky. Think Play-doh.

Divide into 16 ping-pong size balls.  If you have a tortilla press, this next part will go really fast!  I don’t.  If you’re in the same boat, lay out a piece of parchment paper and sprinkle lightly with masa flour. Place a ball of dough there, top with another piece of parchment and roll out with a rolling pin (you want them pretty thin, you know – like a tortilla).  I tried this without the parchment and it was sticking to my rolling pin and a total mess.  Wax paper works too, but it stuck to the tortillas more than the parchment paper.  Use whatever works best for you.

It's sort of roundish

Don’t be alarmed if they are not perfectly round, mine were all sorts of weird shapes but they still tasted good.  Stack them all up, separated with wax or parchment paper so they don’t stick together.  Heat your skillet or grill to med-high.  Cook one at a time, 30-45 seconds on each side, and slide onto a plate.  Repeat until they are all done.

Black Bean Salad

Black Bean Salad

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup rice, cooked
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 bell pepper, whichever color you like best
1/4 cup chopped red or green onions
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
juice of one lime
salt & pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients, and eat!

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Project Veggie: Day 5 – Thai Tuna Burgers

Five days into Project Veggie, and I was in the mood for a burger.  According to Claire’s rules, we are allowed to have fish once a week, so Thai Tuna Burgers fit the bill.

Like many people who go to college on a very small budget, I ate more than my fair share of canned tuna and Top Ramen.  And like many of those people, I don’t often crave those foods these days.  Tuna out of a can is great in a pinch, and my daughter loves it, but sometimes the smell just makes me queasy.  It was quite a while after my college days that I had an actual piece of tuna in a restaurant for the first time.  It came as a complete surprise that it didn’t taste anything like the tuna I was familiar with.  This recipe uses the real stuff that you buy at the fish counter, not the stuff in the can.  I haven’t tried substituting canned fish in this particular recipe, and frankly, they are so good using the fresh fish that I don’t want to.

I made these once for a group of people who came over for a BBQ.  It was a somewhat odd mix of vegetarians (seafood eating vegetarians, obviously) and “meat and potatoes” types and I didn’t want to make multiples dishes.  Instead I made a whole bunch of these, and they were gobbled up in short order by every single person.  I don’t think most people even knew what was in them.

Last night I made a whole recipe (6 burgers) for the 3 of us, thinking I’d have leftovers for lunch, but no such luck.  We all went back for a second burger and ate every bite.  A simple & spicy cucumber salad was the perfect match for the burgers.

Thai Tuna Burgers with Cucumber Salad

Thai Tuna Burgers
(adapted from Crazy Plates, by Janet & Greta Podleski)

1 1/2 pounds fresh tuna steaks
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs or panko
1/2 red or yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
1 tbsp. finely chopped red chile pepper (leave this out or use less if you don’t like spicy, they are hot!)
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup grated carrot
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. ketchup
1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 egg
1 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
6 hamburger buns or rolls
lettuce, tomato, or whatever other burger toppings you like

Cut tuna steaks into large chunks and put in food processor.  Pulse on and off until tuna is chopped into small pieces. If you don’t have a food processor, chop the tuna into very small pieces with a sharp knife.  Transfer to a large bowl.  Add all the remaining ingredients.  Mix well. Refrigerate for 15-30 minutes (I admit to skipping this step more often than not, but it does help them set up a little firmer).  Form mixture into 6 patties, about 1/2 inch thick.  Grill, broil or cook in a large frying pan (my #1 choice) about 4 minutes per side.  The burgers should be cooked all the way through, but do not overcook.

Spicy Cucumber Salad

Spicy Cucumber Salad

1-2 English cucumbers (if you use regular cucumbers I recommend peeling & seeding), sliced
1 tbsp. finely chopped or sliced red chile pepper (the little ones that look like jalapenos)
1/4 cup finely chopped or sliced red onion
Salt & pepper
1/4 – 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Combine all ingredients, except sesame seeds.  Let it sit for awhile to let the flavors blend.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Leave out the peppers or use less if you don’t want it spicy.  You can also substitute dried crushed red peppers for the chile if you don’t have one on hand.


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