Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I Love Texas

I've been horrible about not only making bentos lately, but taking pictures and blogging about them when I do.  My son even complained over the weekend, so I promised to do some fun ones this week.  Here is today's lunch in a Laptop Lunch box.
  • Raspberry yogurt covered pretzels - or "hearts."
  • Sesame sticks - have you *seen* how dry it's been in Texas?  We desperately need some rain.
  • The yellow pear-shaped tomatoes have been inverted with a sprig of mint (all from our garden) to create a "Yellow Rose."
  • There's a peanut butter and honey sandwich painted like a Texas flag with a cinnamon star cookie from our bulk organic section.
  • I created an interpretive "bluebonnet field" with dried blueberries, mint sprigs, and some popcorn.
  • The peanut butter bar is for snack time.
  • I made an explanatory note for each section, except for the sandwich.  It received a handmade sugar cookie with an "I ♥ TX" emblem reminescent of the "I ♥ NY" emblems.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tortilla Pie

Living in Texas, I crave Tex-Mex food.  Crave.  I crave it all.the.time.  This is an easy recipe that the kids love, too!  Who can resist anything with the word pie in it?  (Well, I can, especially if "pie" is preceded by "pot."  That's an entirely different blog entry though.)  I *will* do pictures soon, but I can't seem to find the one I took, so I'll just have to make it again.  Aw, shucks.  ;-D  Another excuse for more Tex-Mex inspired food in our house!

1 can black beans drained and rinsed
1 package frozen baby white and gold corn
1 ½ C Medium Fire Roasted Chipotle Salsa (You can use mild if you're serving to kids)
6 oz. pepper jack cheese , coarsely grated (2 Cups)
2 scallions thinly sliced
½ t ground cumin
4 (10 inch) flour tortillas (burrito size)
5 T oil
***optional*** 1 lb. ground beef & 1 pkg (or 7 tsp) of taco seasoning – prepared)  OR drained leftover chicken from “Crockpot Chicken Tacos

Accompaniment: sour cream and guacamole

Put oven rack in lower 1/3 of oven and preheat to 450.

Stir together beans, corn, salsa, cheese , scallions, and cumin (*and taco meat or chicken) in large bowl.

Heat heavy 12” skillet over high heat.  Pour oil in and gently fry tortillas turning over once, until puffed and golden in spots.  (about 1 minute)

Put 1 tortilla in a well-greased large springform pan.  Spread with 1 1/3 C of filling.  Repeat layering twice, then top with remaining tortilla, gently pressing to help layers adhere.
Bake until filling is heated through, about 12 minutes.  Transfer with a large metal spatula to a platter, then cut into pie wedges with a serrated knife.

Crockpot Chimichangas

I came across this recipe a year or so ago.  I believe I found it on A Year of Slow Cooking, but she was given the idea by someone else.  I apologize that I cannot properly credit the original source. The picture is one that I took when I made them.  Besides being easy, I love that I'm able to satisfy a craving for a not-so-healthy dish by controlling what goes in it and how it is prepared.  If you would prefer to make this with chicken, you can easily substitute the crockpot beef or pork portion with the chicken from Crockpot Chicken Tacos.

1 1/2 pound top round or pork
salt and pepper
1/2 cup water
1 T dried minced onion
, or 1 diced fresh onion
1 can tomato
es and chiles, drained
1 can diced tomatoes
, drained
burrito-sized tortillas          
lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, black olives, guacamole, salsa OR salsa verde and sour cream
*optional sides: black beans or rice

You are going to have to be in the kitchen if you plan on making chimichangas. It doesn't take long, but there is no way around this---you need to fry up the cute little tortilla packets.
In the morning:
Salt and pepper meat on all sides. Place in crockpot and cover with 1/2 cup of water. Cook on low for 8 hours.
Skim the fat out of the liquid at the bottom of your stoneware, and remove excess juice. You only need about a cup of juice left in the crockpot.
Put your meat back inside, and shred it with two forks. The meat should come apart easily. If it doesn't, cut it in pieces and cook on low a few more hours.
Add can of drained diced tomatoes and drained tomatoes and chiles.
Turn  crock to high to warm all ingredients.
Prepare toppings.
When the meat is hot again, start making chimichanga packets. Steam tortillas by stacking a few at a time on a plate and covering with a dampened paper towel. Microwave for 60 seconds.
Take a steamed tortilla and put a spoonful of meat in the center. If you use too much meat, it won't fold correctly.
Fold the bottom and top of the tortilla, then the sides. The sides need to overlap a bit, so the meat doesn't escape.
Heat up some oil in a large skillet. When it is super hot, carefully put the chimichanga into the oil, seam-side down. Fry until golden brown (about 1 min) then flip.
Top with cheese, salsa, sour cream and guacamole.

Crockpot Chicken Tacos

These were originally "KA's Crockpot Chicken Tacos", and the original recipe came from a mom's message board that I'm on.  I've altered and tweaked it to our own preferences over time, and here's our version!  This chicken also works well in the Tortilla Pie or the Crockpot Chimichangas.

3 chicken breasts (you may use frozen, I take them out of the freezer, and put them directly in the crockpot)
1 package (8 tsp) of chicken taco seasoning OR
   * 1 teaspoon Cumin
   * 3 tablespoons Chili powder
   * 2 Garlic cloves or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 can of Rotel diced tomatoes and chiles (or pico de gallo)
½ cup water or chicken stock
3 T of olive oil
1 can black beans, optional
1 can corn, or 1 C frozen corn, optional
20 or so corn tortillas .
3 tbsp. canola oil
Toppings (lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, sour cream, salsa, etc.)

Set crockpot on low. Add Taco Seasoning.
Put chicken breasts on top of the taco seasoning. Add the Rotel, water and oil. (Also add the beans and corn if you're using them, this is ideal if you're making the Tortilla Pie)
Leave in crockpot for 6-8 hours.

Around the sixth hour, turn up heat to high.

Push chicken pieces to the sides of the pot, leaving a 'hole filled with sauce'.
Add two tablespoons of flour or cornstarch to the 'hole' for thickening the sauce.

As the sauce thickens, use two forks to shred chicken.

Turn the heat to a low setting and begin to prepare tortillas. In a omlette pan (8" skillet), heat up three tablespoons of canola oil on a medium high setting. Place tortilla in pan. Once you see the tortilla bubbling up in the middle, flip. After about twenty seconds, remove tortilla from pan and place on a folded paper towel to drain excess oil. Repeat until you have the desired number of taco shells.

Add toppings

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Fresh Shrimp or Crab-Stuffed Avocado Dip

I love, and I mean lurve, avocados.  I love them fried, stuffed, smashed, and in my mouth!  There's a restaurant in Austin (Trudy's) that makes a killer fried & stuffed avocado, but it's an indulgence.  You eat them once a year, and you don't dare try to figure out how many calories you consumed.  Last spring, my husband and I were in Shiner, Texas, for the wedding of one of my college friends.  We had a fresh version of the stuffed avocado, and I was inspired to create a fresh light stuffed avocado of my own.  This is my take on it.  It's heaven, if I do say so myself.  ENJOY!

10-15 shrimp or ½ C crab meat
¼ red onion, finely minced
1 roma tomato, finely diced
3 T lemon juice
Grated cheddar cheese
Salt & Pepper
Avocados (Each avocado serves 2 people.)
Tortilla chips and Cayenne pepper for serving.

Sauté shrimp in garlic olive oil, and dice. Mix shrimp or crab, onion, tomato, lemon juice, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper in a bowl. 
Cut avocados in half, remove seed, dice avocado “meat”, but leave in avocado skin.
Sprinkle cheddar cheese over avocado.
Fill with shrimp mixture.
Serve with tortilla chips and allow each person to sprinkle with cayenne as desired.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Chipotle Eggs Benedict

We love eggs benedict at our house.  We have one child with egg allergies, so we have to make two separate meals on mornings we are craving eggs benedict, but it's ALWAYS worth it.  This is my twist on eggs benedict, and although I certainly love my "standard", this one is always fun as an easy way to make it a little different and special.

Chipotle Eggs Benedict

English Muffins, halved and toasted
Prosciutto (baked on a wire rack in oven until crispy)
Eggs (water and cooking spray or vinegar to poach)
Chipotle Hollandaise Sauce (recipe below)
Pepper to taste
Parsley for garnish

Place prosciutto in oven on a wire rack and bake on 300 (convection bake if possible) until fully crisped.
Meanwhile prepare water for poaching eggs.  (I have a poaching pan, but it's not required.)  If using a poaching pan, spray the reservoirs with nonstick cooking spray and fill the basin to the required height with water.  If using a sauce pan, heat water and 1 T vinegar.
While the water is heating and the prosciutto is crisping, prepare the Chipotle Hollandaise Sauce.

Chipotle Hollandaise Sauce            -       makes about 1 cup
2 large egg yolks                                  
1 tablespoon cold water
Pinch of salt                                        
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 T fresh lemon juice                         
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
1-3 t adobo sauce as desired
1 chipotle pepper, seeded and minced

In a medium heatproof bowl set over (but not in) a large saucepan filled with 2 inches of simmering water, whisk the egg yolks with the cold water and salt until warm to the touch. Slowly drizzle in half of the melted butter in a thin stream, whisking constantly until incorporated. Continue whisking in the melted butter until the sauce is thick and emulsified. Whisk in the lemon juice, Worcestershire, adobo sauce and minced chipotle, and serve warm.
MAKE AHEAD The sauce can be kept warm over the hot water bath off the heat for 30 minutes. Whisk occasionally and reheat over hot water.

Poach the eggs to desired consistency.  Place 1/2 of an English Muffin on a plate, and top with prosciutto, egg, sauce, pepper and parsley!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Smoked Paprika Shrimp with Poblano Polenta and Red Pepper Agave Sauce

I saw this recipe in a magazine a few years ago, and it was on a McCormick spice advertisment.  I don't usually try recipes in ads, but this one caught my eye, and I'm *so* glad it did.  It's delicious!

Prep Time: 45 minutes       Cook Time: 1 hr              Serves 4

Red Pepper-Agave Sauce:
1 T olive oil                                          
1/4 C chopped red onion
3 Ts agave nectar or honey
1 jar (12 to 13 ounces)  roasted red peppers, drained
½ C chicken stock                              
½ C heavy cream
1 T tomato paste
Poblano Polenta:
1 quart  (4 Cs)  milk                           
1 t Sicilian Sea Salt
1 C polenta (corn meal)                    
2 Ts butter
1 C shredded Manchego cheese      
1 C fresh/thawed corn 
1/4 C finely chopped roasted Poblano chile (See Test Kitchen Tip below)  or 1 T  chopped drained pickled jalapeño pepper
Smoked Paprika Shrimp:
1 pound large shrimp (21 to 25 count), peeled and deveined
2 Ts olive oil, divided                         
2 ts Smoked Paprika
1/2 t Sicilian Sea Salt                         
1/2 t Black Pepper
2 green onions, thinly sliced

1.  For the Red Pepper-Agave Sauce, heat oil in small skillet on medium heat.  Add onion; cook & stir 2 minutes or until softened.  Add agave nectar; cook & stir 1 minute or until onion starts to caramelize.  Place roasted bell peppers, chicken stock, heavy cream, tomato paste & onion mixture in blender or food processor; cover.  Puree until smooth.  Spoon bell pepper mixture into medium saucepan.  Bring to boil on medium heat. Cook 10 to 12 minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened.  Keep warm.
2.  For the Poblano Polenta, bring milk & sea salt to simmer in heavy 2-quart saucepan on medium heat.  Whisking constantly, add polenta in thin stream.  Stirring frequently, cook 10 minute.  Reduce heat to low; cover & simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat.  Stir in butter, corn, cheese  & chile until well mixed.  Keep warm.
3.  For the Smoked Paprika Shrimp, toss shrimp with 1 tablespoon of the oil.  Sprinkle with smoked paprika, sea salt & pepper.  Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in large nonstick skillet on medium-high heat.  Add shrimp; cook & stir 3 minutes or just until shrimp turn pink.
4.  To serve, spoon Poblano Polenta onto each plate.  Drizzle Red Pepper-Agave Sauce around polenta.  Arrange Smoked Paprika Shrimp on sauce.  Sprinkle with green onions.

Test Kitchen Tips: 
    * To roast the Poblano chile on a gas stove-top, cook the peppers directly over a medium-high gas flame until blackened on all sides, turning with tongs.  Transfer to a paper bag.  Close bag.  Let stand 15 minutes or until peppers are cool enough to handle.  Peel off blackened skin.  Remove tops, ribs & seeds.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Scallops & Asparagus

It's that time of year!  The weather is gorgeous, and light easy meals are what I crave.  This is a favorite in our house.  My 6 year old isn't a huge fan of asparagus, but he loves everything else about this dish.  Our 20 month old twins love it (although they're really messy with orzo or rice!)

Scallops & Asparagus
1 lb medium asparagus                     
2 t white-wine vinegar                        
1/3 cup dry white wine                      
½ lb halved grape tomatoes             
Minced garlic                                       
Cooking spray                                     
Creole Seasoning                                
2 lb large sea scallops, tough ligament removed from side of each if attached     
1 T unsalted butter or Smart Balance, cut into tablespoon pieces
¾ - 1 t lemon juice (add to reduction)
Serve over rice, cous cous, orzo or angel hair pasta

1. Trim asparagus, then cut stems into 1/4-inch-thick diagonal slices, leaving tips whole.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch heavy nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté asparagus and garlic, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a plate, reserving skillet off heat (do not clean).
3. Pat scallops dry and sprinkle with Creole seasoning. Add cooking spray to skillet and heat over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté half of scallops, turning over once, until browned and just cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes total. Transfer scallops with tongs to another plate as cooked.
4. Wipe out skillet with paper towels, then add remaining tablespoon oil and heat until hot but not smoking. Sauté remaining scallops, turning over once, until browned and cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes total, transferring to plate. (Do not wipe out skillet after second batch.)
5. Carefully add wine and vinegar to skillet (mixture may spatter) and boil, scraping up brown bits, until liquid is reduced to about 2 T, about 1 minute. Add any scallop juices accumulated on plate and bring to a simmer.
6. Cook rice, cous cous, orzo or angel hair pasta according to package directions.
7. Reduce heat to low and whisk in butter and lemon juice until incorporated.
8. Add asparagus and tomatoes and cook until heated through, about 1 minute.
9. Serve scallops topped with asparagus and sauce.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Garden Progress

The tomatoes are coming in.  They're getting big, but only 2 of them have started turning red.  I must admit that we're all getting very anxious to have fresh tomatoes, and I've threatened to do fried green tomatoes at least three times a week for the last two weeks....
 The bell peppers are coming in, too!  I'm so excited, because I just finished the last bag of bell peppers we had sliced and frozen at the end of last season.

 We have basil EVERYWHERE.  I use it, too.  We have about 4 or 5 large basil plants in the garden, and another 15-20 in containers (including a beautiful purple basil!)  The purple basil looks great in those Key-lime Basil Martinis, too!
 We have the first bloom on our acorn squash plant.
 There are a ton of blooms on the zucchini plant.
Yes, I'm well aware that we have grass in the garden.  I pull it constantly.  We don't spray in the garden and keep it completely organic, so it's a battle.  As big as the plants get, I'm not really worried about it, because our veggies don't seem to suffer.