Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Chicken Soft Tacos Are Awesome

I'm not sure why, but tacos aren't something that make it onto my radar very often. It's not that I don't like them, it's just that I tend to forget about them for months at a time. Today, though, I went grocery shopping after work and by the time I got home, tacos sounded better than anything else on the menu. Speaking of shopping, have you noticed that the stores almost seem MORE crowded after work than they do on weekend afternoons?

These originally were going to be vegetarian tacos, but I ended up having a little more chicken than I needed for the Chicken and Broccoli, so I ended up adding the chicken to this.

They may look like regular tacos, but they're yummier. You'll have to trust me on that one.

It was a good move.

Chicken Soft Tacos
Serves 4
3 T olive oil
3 chicken thighs, trimmed
1/2 t cumin seeds
1/2 t fennel
1/4 t chili powder
3 green chilis
1/2 c onion, diced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 t cumin seeds
1/4 c tomato, diced
1 T orange juice
1 t salt
1 t pepper
1 1/2 t oregano

Sour Cream

In a small sauce pan, heat one tablespoon of olive oil. When it's warm, add the cumin and oregano and stir until fragrant, about a minute. Add the diced onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the beans and 1/4 c water. Simmer to meld the flavors, about 20 minutes. Periodically mash some of the beans so they break open. Stir in the orange juice and simmer 5 minute more.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium pan over medium heat. Add the chicken, fennel, cumin, salt, chili powder, and allow the chicken to brown, about 5 minutes. Turn the chicken and cover. Reduce the heat and cook through, 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of your chicken.

Remove the chicken from the pan and dice; return to the pan with diced chiles, salt to taste, and a splash of orange juice.

Serve with warm tortillas and the toppings of your choice.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Menu Series: Comfort Food

Most of the time, Seattle rain is more of a gentle, misty rain. You might get slightly wet, but it's not wet enough to prevent you from going outside, going for runs, or doing yard work. Sometimes, though, we get solid, serious rain. This weekend, we had a few of those days back to back and it put me in a comfort food sort of mind.

Mashed potatoes and parsnips? Yes, please. Braised cabbage? Absolutely.

This week's menu is for unhappy weather when you need a little pick-me-up. As last week, as I make things and remember to take pictures, I'll come back and link to the recipe.

Also? This week? I bought half a goat. You read that correctly. Half a goat. I can't wait. It's pre-butchered and has about 7 different cuts. I can't wait to experiment and see the options available to me.

The Menu:
Chicken and Broccoli
Braised cabbage with apples and pork chops
Wild rice and mushroom pilaf
Chicken soft tacos
Pork medallions with roasted figs

The Grocery List:
chicken thighs
white rice
1.5 lb apples
1 head red cabbage
pork chips
2-15 oz cans black beans
green chiles (canned)
1 lb mixed mushrooms
pork loin
1.5 lb parsnips
1.5 lb yukon gold potatoes
heavy cream

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Rolled Eggplant

Sometimes a recipe calls for a particular pan. Sometimes I ignore the recipe and use whatever pan is closest or prettiest. That is not always a good idea, because you'll get to the point in the recipe where you're supposed to be done, and your pan will be more than half empty. The pretty pan, you see, is quite a bit larger than the 9-inch pan called for in the recipe, and the eggplant rolls look sad and lost.

But the pretty pan is pretty. And the 9-inch pan is not as pretty.

This was so good. I'm pretty sure I could eat this once a week, and would, if it wouldn't likely have an adverse effect on my ability to fit in my pants.

Rolled Eggplant with Sausage and Mozzarella, adapted slightly from Cooking from the Farmers' Market
Serves 4
2 Asian eggplant, cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices
1/4 c plus 2 T olive oil
salt and pepper
5 oz Italian sausage, casings removed
2 c crushed tomato
1 t oregano
1/2 t salt
1 t pepper
1 c ricotta
4 T mozzarella, cut into small pieces
2 T Parmesan
1 T parsley, chopped

Preheat the oven to 450F. Brush the eggplant on both sides with the 1/4 c olive oil, then salt. Bake until lightly browned on the bottom, 10 minutes, then turn each piece and bake 7 minutes more. Remove from the oven and set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 350F.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, cook the sausage until browned, 5 minutes. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, oregano, salt and pepper. Simmer 10 minutes.
In a bowl, mix the ricotta, mozzarella, half the Parmesan, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Spread half the tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9-inch pan. Place a spoonful of the cheese mixture near the wide end of each eggplant slice, roll up, and place upright in the sauce. Spoon the remaining sauce between the rolls. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.

Bake until bubbling, 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tuscan Bean Soup, the Happiest Soup Ever

I've been making this soup for years. I don't remember when exactly, but a friend gave me the Food for Friends as a gift. I have a lot of cookbooks, but this is one that stays in the kitchen because there are some definite keepers in here, recipes that I come back to again and again, tweaking them here and there; adding this, trying that.

This is absolutely one of those recipes. It's delicious in its simplicity and so easy to adapt based on what you may have in the pantry. When the crisp fall air comes to visit, here's just something so comforting about soup, and this soup in particular.

If you have it on hand, this is also really good with thin curls of Parmesan on top. But cheese makes everything that much happier, doesn't it?

Tuscan Bean Soup, adapted from Food for Friends
Serves 6
1 T olive oil
4 oz pancetta
1 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, diced
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 can cannelini beans, rinsed
4 Italian sausages
1 quart chicken stock
1 bay leaf
bunch of parsley, chopped
salt and pepper

  1. Heat a large dutch oven over medium heat; add olive oil, carrots, celery, garlic, pancetta, and onions. Saute over medium heat 8-10 minutes, until softened.
  2. Add the beans, sausage, stock, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer 30 minutes.
  3. Remove the sausages from the soup and slice on the diagonal. Return the sausages and their juices to the soup.
  4. Add the parsley, remove the bay leaf, and serve.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Menu Series: Fall is Here

I make menus every week when I make my grocery list. It helps keep me focused and means I'm less likely to come home from the grocery story with cheese sticks and beer and call it good. It also means we seldom go to the grocery store more than once a week. That's a huge improvement from when we were going two or three times a week because we'd forgotten the baguette, or the pork chops, or the spinach.

I'm going to start tracking my menus here so that you can use them and so I can reference them on those days when I just can't think of any inventive meals. I'm also going to include my grocery list. If you choose to use the list, you might want to do some double checking against the recipes. If I have something in my pantry already, it probably won't make it onto the list.

As I make them, and if I post them, I'll come back and link to recipes.

The Menu:
  • Tuscan bean soup

  • Squash Risotto

  • Roasted Beet Salad with pork chops

  • Spaghetti and Meatballs

  • Rolled Eggplant

  • Scallops and Oranges

  • Grocery List:

  • mozzarella cheese

  • 4 oz pancetta

  • 1 can cannelini beans

  • spicy italian sausage

  • parsley

  • carrots

  • celery

  • chicken broth

  • pork chops

  • beets

  • 4 oz goat cheese

  • 1/2 c walnuts

  • spaghetti

  • 2-28 oz cans tomatoes

  • 1 1/2 lb asian eggplant

  • bulk sausage tomatoes

  • 1 naval orange

  • 1 blood orange

  • 1 lb scallops cilantro

  • 1/2 lb ground pork

  • 1/2 lb ground turkey

  • squash

  • risotto rice
  • Monday, October 4, 2010

    Ding, Dong The Witch is Dead

    Not that I'm celebrating overmuch, but I finished a quilt that has felt like an albatross around my neck for the last month. In May, I volunteered to make a quilt for a charity auction in October. In May, it seemed like I had plenty of time - more than enough time - so much time... Anyway, you get the picture. Things sound so easy when you're looking at them from five or six months out. Then October shows up and you realize that five or six months have become a week.
    Not that I panicked or anything.
    Ok. I panicked a little.
    And then I sewed and sewed and sewed. And cursed the thread that kept knotting.

    Usually I'm glad a quilt is done because I like it and I'm pleased when what I've made, that I created something.

    This one, sadly, I have to say I was just glad to be done with it. Maybe that will teach me to be more efficient with my time and commitments.
    Ha. Fat chance.

    Sunday, October 3, 2010

    Chocolate Gingerbread

    There's a bite in the air that can only mean that fall is officially here. Fall is one of my favorite seasons. I love the changing leaves, especially on Japanese Maples, the flowers, and I love that since it's cooler, it's better running weather.
    This is also one of the few times a year that gingerbread sounds really good. I'll almost always accept gingerbread on the off chance that someone offers me a slice, but I seldom make it. But when the air gets brisk, tea and gingerbread sounds perfect.

    I don't remember how I stumbled upon it, but about two weeks ago, I found Lara Ferroni's blog Food Travel Life. Someone had linked to her chocolate gingerbread, and it sounded amazing. To ensure I wouldn't lose the recipe, I left the tab open in my browser over those two weeks (a habit that befuddles Clive).
    Today, life calmed down just a little bit, and a two hour window of time was open before me. I made gingerbread. There are few things that make a house smell so amazing as gingerbread. It smells like the holidays, but without the stress and chaos (and without the mandatory deep cleaning).
    If you are a fan of chocolate and ginger and having a house that smells divine, you should make this. I used a standard loaf pan, hoping to have gingerbread for breakfast for the next few days. If things continue as they started out, that might be wishful thinking, since the loaf is half gone already. If you suspect something similar may happen in your house, I'd recommend doubling the recipe; it won't go to waste.

    Chocolate Gingerbread, from Food Travel Life
    Makes one loaf

    1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    2 tablespoons natural cocoa powder
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1 teaspoon ground ginger
    a pinch of ground nutmeg
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    4 tablespoons unsalted butter
    1/2 cup packed brown sugar
    1 egg
    1/2 cup buttermilk
    1/3 cup molasses
    2 tablespoons crystalized ginger, diced
    3/4 cup chocolate chips

    1. Preheat the oven to 350 and lightly butter a loaf pan.
    2. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Set aside.
    3. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix. In a small bowl, mix the buttermilk and molasses together and add all at once to the butter mixture. Don’t worry if the mixture looks a bit curdled.
    4. Add the flour mixture and mix to combine. Fold in the crystalized ginger and chocolate chips. Turn the batter into the prepared pan.
    5. Bake until a knife comes clean, about 1 hour. Cool on a wire rack before serving.