Monday, June 29, 2015

Beef Tostadas with Pickled Red Onions

The majority of this dish is pretty standard Mexican-American fare - seasoned ground beef, a dollop of sour cream, and lots of minced cilantro.  But, two elements make it really special -- pickled red onions, and home-fried tostadas.  First, the onions -- super simple, yet crazy flavorful.  I love how red onions turn hot pink when they're pickled, and the bright color signals lots of spice and vinegar.  Yum!  You also end up with pickled jalapenos as a by-product of this recipe...they add a little spiciness to the onions, but if you're a spice-lover you can also top your tostadas with the jalapeno slices (just be prepared -- they are spicy!).  You'll likely have leftover pickled onions, which are a fun topping for sandwiches or other Mexican dishes.

Frying your own tostadas is a totally optional step here -- I know I'm not always in the mood to pull out a cast iron pan and heat up a bunch of oil, especially on a weeknight.  That said, the texture is amazing, and nothing like what you'll find in pre-prepared tostadas from the grocery.  The tortillas get shatteringly crisp and deeply browned...basically the perfect thing to pile high with your favorite toppings.

Beef Tostadas with Pickled Red Onions (adapted from Cooking Light)

For the onions:
1 medium red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 jalapeno, thinly sliced
2/3 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt

For the beef:
1 pound ground beef
1-1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp kosher salt
Oil, as needed

To finish:
Corn tortillas + oil to fry (or store-bought tostadas)
Sour cream
Fresh cilantro
Salsa or pico de gallo (optional)

1. Make the pickled onions.  Combine the onions, jalapeno, vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil over high heat, and simmer for one minute.  Remove from the heat and let stand until ready to serve.
2. Make the beef.  In a non-stick skillet over medium heat, combine the beef, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and salt.  Cook until nicely browned and cooked through, adding oil as needed if the skillet becomes too dry.
3. If making your own tostadas, heat an inch or so of a neutral oil in a cast iron skillet until it sizzles when you drip in a drop of water. Fry the tortillas until nicely browned on each side.  Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt.
4. Assemble the tostadas. Start with a tostada, and add the seasoned beef.  Top with sour cream, cilantro, and salsa or pico de gallo.  Scoop the pickled onions out of the pickling liquid and scatter on top of the tostadas.  The pickled jalapeno slices will be spicy, so use them only if you prefer a spicier dish.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Blueberry Griddle Cakes

Some good friends of ours got us a griddle for our wedding, and let me tell you -- it is amazing!  Giant cooking surface, even heating, and honestly, it's just a way more fun way to cook breakfast than heating up a bunch of skillets on the stove.  For the griddle's inaugural breakfast, I went with, of course, griddle cakes (how could I not).  Smitten Kitchen recently posted a griddle cakes recipe, and it was fantastic!  I love the blend of corn flour and regular AP flour, because you get the corn flavor without losing the fluffy texture of a regular pancake.  Yogurt makes the pancakes extra moist, and blueberries add bursts of fruit flavor throughout.  Although I'm usually a creative pancake-topper, these screamed out for butter and maple syrup.  Breakfast perfection!

Blueberry Griddle Cakes (adapted from Smitten Kitchen, original recipe here)
Serves 3-4

3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole grain corn flour (such as Bob's Red Mill)
2 T granulated sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 T butter (plus more for the griddle)
2/3 cup regular (not Greek) yogurt
1/3 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 cup blueberries

1. Whisk together the flour, corn flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
2. In a separate bowl, melt the butter.  Whisk in the yogurt, followed by the milk and the eggs.  Gently stir in the berries.
3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until just combined.
4. Heat a large griddle to about 350 degrees (or a skillet over medium heat).  Melt a bit of butter on the griddle, and then add the pancake batter -- about 1/4 cup per pancake.  Cook until the bottoms are golden, and then flip and cook on the second side until cooked through.  Repeat until all the pancakes are cooked. Stash in a 200-degree oven if you need to keep the pancakes warm.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Loaded Turkey Burgers with Caramlized Onions, Goat Cheese, and Guacamole

Turkey burgers are one of those hit or miss foods -- they can be moist and tasty, but they can also turn out completely dry and flavorless.  This version definitely falls in the "moist and tasty" category, mostly because it's piled high with totally delicious toppings.  Start by making caramelized onions -- I used the slow cooker to avoid standing over a hot stove in the summer, but of course you can make yours anyway you like.  Either way, this component will take the most time, so you want to start there.

Once your onions are perfectly browned and sweet, you're ready for more toppings, the rest of them very simple.  Mayo spiked with BBQ sauce and Dijon mustard (yes, please!), a super quick guacamole made of mashed avocados, fresh cilantro, and lime juice, and super creamy goat cheese.  Once these are all piled on a potato roll, they make turkey burgers seriously exciting!  Although the list of ingredients looks long, these burgers actually come together very quickly as long as you make the onions ahead of time.

Loaded Turkey Burgers with Caramelized Onions, Goat Cheese, and Guacamole (adapted from How Sweet It Is, original recipe here)

For the BBQ mayo
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1-1/2 T BBQ sauce
1 tsp Dijon mustard

For the burgers
1 pound ground turkey
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Olive oil

For the guacamole
2 avocados, mashed
2 T minched cilantro
Salt and pepper
Juice of 1 lime

To finish:
Potato rolls
Goat cheese, crumbled

1. Mis up the BBQ mayo -- stir together all the ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
2. Make the burgers.  Mix together the turkey, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Divide into 4 patties.
3. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add a drizzle of oil and let it get hot.  Add the turkey patties and cook until nicely browned on both sides and cooked through.
4. While the burgers are cooking, make the guacamole.  Stir together all the ingredients and set aside.
5. Assemble the burgers.  Toast the rolls, and then slather on a generous spoonful of the BBQ mayo.  Add a turkey burger, and then top with caramelized onions, crumbled goat cheese, and guacamole.  Pop on the top bun, squish a little, and enjoy!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Summer Salad with Shrimp, Bacon and Cilantro Vinaigrette

Summer is in full force here in Boston, and so it's definitely salad season.  This salad is a perfect combination of textures and flavors, and is the perfect dinner to enjoy on a warm evening.  Start with a base of mixed green, fresh red tomatoes, corn cut off the cob, and shaved summer squash.  I was suprised at how tasty the shaved summer squash was -- we eat lots of squash, but I don't think I've tried it raw before.  On top goes sauteed shrimp and crispy bacon - yum!  And finally, this dressing is crazy good -- herby with fresh cilantro, sweet with honey, and a little bite from white wine vinegar.  The ingredients are simple but this dressing is super yummy and pairs perfectly with lots of fresh ingredients!

Summer Salad with Shrimp, Bacon and Cilantro Vinaigrette (adapted from Cooking Light)

In a jam jar, combine 6 T olive oil, 2 T white wine vinegar, 1-1/2 tsp honey, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, and 1 T minced fresh cilantro.  Shake to combine and set aside.

In a large salad bowl, layer mixed greens, just-steamed fresh corn kernels cut off the cob, diced heirloom tomatoes, shaved summer squash (use a vegetable peeler to shave off very thin, long ribbons), and crumbled crispy bacon.  Top with grilled or sauteed shrimp.  Drizzle with the cilantro dressing.  Toss at the table after everyone has admired your beautiful salad!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Menus from My Great-Grandmother

My mother recently sent my husband and me a hand-written list of menus that my great-grandmother prepared for my grandmother when she got married. I thought it would be fun to recreate as many of these menus as possible -- there probably won't be creamed sweetbreads in our future, but most of these meals sound very tasty!  (For the record, my grandmother says she does not think she attempted everything on the list, either!)  I love the mix of super specific (rhubarb and lemon cream pie) and vague dessert options, and the one name brand that makes it in -- Philadelphia cream cheese.  And there are some dishes that strike me as surprisingly modern, like grapefruit and avocado salad!

We're starting off this week with #26: Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green vegetable or artichokes with Hollandaise sauce!

1. Pork sausage, riced potatoes, a green salad--lettuce onions tossed salad, fruit dessert
2. Spare ribs, saurkraut, cornsticks, marmalade
3. Souffle, tomatoes or beets (pungent), cabbalge (sour cream dressed)
4. Ham - baked, grapefruit and avocado salad, peas or asparagus, strawberry shortcake
5. Leg of lamb, mint sauce, peas, rhubarb and lemon cream pie
6. Roast beef, brown potatoes, tossed vegetable salad, pie or cake or pudding
7. Chicken and dumplings (stewed), fruit salad, peas, sherbet
8. Fried ham, eggs, hashed brown potatoes, light dessert (blue heese, crackers, Langloist??)
9. Pork chops, scalloped potatoes, apple and celery salad or applesauce, green salad, chese and crackers or otherwise light (baked apples)
10. Macaroni and cheese, green salad (tomatoes and lettuce), light dessert
11. Spaghetti meatballs, garlic or toasted french bread, tossed salad, strawberries and ice cream
12. Baked turkey or chicken, creamed onions, grapefruit and avocado salad, pie, cake, or pudding dessert
13. Potato soup, heavy salad -- apple, celery, and nut salad, pie
14. Creamed tuna fish, peas on toast points, green vegetable or salad, dessert
15. Baked salmon loaf, baked potatoes, tossed green salad or aspic salad, light desesrt (angel food cake)
16. Veal (breasts?), dressing, peas or green vegetable, aspic or geletin salad (apple or fruit, banana, nut, or peas-Philadelphia cream cheese salad), light or no dessert
17. Meatloaf, baked potatoes, head lettuce and roquefort cheese dressing -- with lemon, mustard, (Chicken, baked also good)
18. Steak dinner, baked potatoes
19. Swiss steak, onions, carrots
20. Baked flank steak, tomatoes, green peppers, and onions over top (cook 3 hours)
21. Liver and onions, bacon, spinach -- hard boiled eggs, and lemon, heavy dessert or fruit and cookies
22. Ground steak patties, ranch fries, cabbage salad, rhubarb pie
23. Fish - salmon - broiled fillet, boiled potatoes -- butter and parsley, tossed salad
24. Pot roast (cook roast first), potatoes, carrots, onions, and celery (a little), apple and celery or head lettuce and roquefort, light dessert
25. New England boiled dinner -- ham end, when cooked, put sections of cabbage, turnisps, and potatoes in, or butter beans (soak night before and then cook slowly)
26. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green vegetable or artichokes with Hollandaise sauce
27. Breaded veal cutlets, mashed potatoes, vegetable, light desesrt
28. Lamb chops, peas, tomato aspic salad, heavy dessert - pie
29. Creamed sweet breads on toast pounds, salad, rich dessert
30. Scalloped oysters, cabbage salad and carrot, heavy dessert - pie

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Fresh Strawberry Donuts

So, I completely failed on National Donut Day, but everyone's amazing donut posts convinced me that I had to make some donuts.  For one thing, I don't use my donut pan nearly enough!  Tim brought home strawberries from the farmer's market, so I was decided on some type of strawberry-flavored donuts.  These start with a super easy, super moist yellow cake batter -- it's sweet, delicious, and everything you want from a cake donut.  I like to use a Ziplock bag with a corner cut off to easily transfer the batter into the donut tin with a minimum of spills and drips.  I glazed these while still warm with a simple strawberry-powdered sugar glaze.  You can add more or less powdered sugar based on how sweet versus jammy you want the glaze...I went with a jammier glaze that soaked into the donuts and made them totally delicious (but a little more perishable -- with a glaze that soaks in, you want to eat the donuts right away so they don't get too soggy).

Fresh Strawberry Donuts (adapted from Fifteen Spatulas, original recipe here)
Makes 12 mini donuts

1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the glaze:
1/2 cup minced strawberries
Powdered sugar, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a mini-donut pan with oil.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soday, and salt.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, milk, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla.  Pour into the dry ingredients, and whisk briefly to combine (a few lumps are okay).
4. Scrape the batter into a gallon Ziplock bag, and carefully cut off a corner. Use the bag to pipe the batter into the donut pan, dividing it as evenly as possible among the wells (you want to fill them about 2/3 full).
5. Bake 8-12 minutes or so, until a tester comes out clean.
6. Let the donuts cool while you prepare the glaze.  Place the strawberries in a mini-chopper or blender and puree.  Add confectioner's sugar a large spoonful at a time, blending between each addition, until the glaze is as thick and sweet as you like it.

These donuts are best right after glazing (while still a little warm!), but you'll still enjoy them the next morning for breakfast if you have any left.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Lunch Box: Asian-Style Split Pea Soup

Another lunch, another soup!  Split pea soup is such a comfort food to me, and this one adds a fun twist with coconut oil, coconut milk, and garam masala.  Sounds sort of weird, but the flavors go really well together and make this lunch a little more fun.  I added goat cheese on top for added richness, but feta or any other salty cheese would work well too (or you could skip the cheese, sub more coconut oil for the butter, and make this a vegan soup!)  If you skip the cheese, you might add a multi-grain roll to make sure you stay full all afternoon.

Asian-Style Split Pea Soup (adapted from Heidi Swanson via Food52)
Serves 4

2 T coconut oil
1 large onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp Aleppo chile flakes (or other chile flakes)
5-1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1-1/2 cups green split peas, picked over and rinsed
3 T butter
1 T garam masala
1/2 cup coconut milk
Goat cheese, to serve

1. Heat a large soup pot over medium heat and melt the coconut oil in it.  Add the onion, garlic, and chile flakes.  Stir for 10 minutes or so, until the onions soften.
2. Add the broth and split peas, bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer until tender (45 minutes or so).
3. Melt the butter in a small skillet, stirring constantly.  Let it foam and brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garam masala and stir for another 30 seconds or so.  Remove from the heat.
4. Remove the soup from the heat and add the garam masala butter, coconut milk, and a generous sprinkle of salt.  Let cool slightly, and then puree using an immersion or regular blender.  You can make it very smooth or leave the soup sort of chunky -- your choice.  Taste and adjust seasoning.
5. Transfer to lunch containers, or reheat and serve immediately.
6. Serve topped with crumbled goat cheese.

Other Lunch Box Posts: 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Lunch Box: Lemony Barley Salad with Veggies and Egg

This recipe is second in a series of lunch posts. I like to prep lunches on the weekend so they're ready in my fridge for days when we don't have leftovers. I find that between leftovers and work-provided lunches, four weekend-prepped lunches is just about right between me and my husband. To me, it's well worth the time because we save a lot of money and the meals are healthier than take-out. And I would never be able to motivate to get this done in the's all about grab and go.

This grain-based salad is a healthy, tasty lunch that's great for weekend prep because each step is very simple -- for the most part, each ingredient just gets steamed separately and then set aside to cool, so you can definitely work on this while doing other tasks.  (I made mango frozen yogurt at the same time, yum!)  Although my favorite way to prepare veggies is probably roasting (which you could certainly do with these ingredients), something about a steamed-and-chilled salad just screams spring to me, especially if you throw in a hard boiled egg.  These eggs are actually steamed rather than hard boiled, a technique I learned from Cooks Illustrated.  In that recipe, they steamed the eggs for 6-1/2 minutes, yeilding a perfect soft-boiled egg.  Here, I add a little steaming time for hard-cooked yet still tender and fluffy yolks.

Lemony Barley Salad with Veggies and Egg (loosely inspired by Food52)
Makes 4 hearty lunch servings

8.8 ounce bag quick-cooking barley
Olive oil
2-3 medium waxy potatoes, scrubbed
Rice vinegar
1 bunch asparagus
4 eggs
1 bunch rainbow chard, stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

For the dressing:
Juice of 1 lemon (2 if your lemons aren't too juicy)
Olive oil
Spoonful of Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
Minced herbs (optional)

1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and salt it generously.  Add the barley, reduce to a simmer, and cook until tender (about 10 minutes).  Drain, and toss with a drizzle of olive oil.  Set aside to cool.
2. Meanwhile, set up a steamer basket over simmering water.  Cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces, and steam until tender, about 10-15 minutes.  Sprinkle with a little rice vinegar and salt, and gently stir to combine.  Set aside to cool.
3. In the same steamer basket, steam the asparagus until tender, 3-8 minutes depending on thickness.  Transfer to a cutting board, let cool slightly, and cut into bite-sized lengths.  Set aside to cool.
4. In the same steamer basket, steam the eggs for 12 minutes.  Run under cold water to stop the cooking.
5. Finally, yet again in the same steamer basket, steam the chard leaves until tender, just 2-3 minutes.  Toss with salt, olive oil, and cider vinegar, and set aside to cool.
6. Make the dressing: In a jam jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the lemon juice and then pour in about twice as much olive oil as lemon juice (you can eyeball it).  Then add the mustard, salt and pepper, and any minced herbs you have around (optional).  Screw on the lid and shake well.  If you like an extra dressing-y salad, you may wish to make a double batch.
7. Assemble your lunch containers.  It helps to set four contianers out on the counter.  Then just divide all the ingredients evenly among the containers -- barley, potatoes, asparagus, chard, and chickpeas.  I suggest storing the eggs (in their shells) separately and peeling/slicing right before lunch, simply because I think they stay fresher this way.  I would also suggest storing the dressing in a small container and dressing the salad right before eating, although everything here is hardy enough that it won't wilt if dressed early.  Note: The "rainbow" in the rainbow chard will dye the potatoes a bit pink.  I liked this, but if you don't, you might want to choose a non-rainbow variety.

Other Lunch Box Posts: 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Lunch Box: Green and Yellow Vegetable Soups

I've been absent from the blog for a few weeks for an excellent reason -- I was getting married!  Now I'm ready to get back to both cooking and blogging, and over the next week or so I'll be featuring some great recipes to pack for lunch.  I've posted lots of lunch box recipes in the past, and this set will keep you happy and full at lunchtime.

This soup recipe is based on a great feature from Food Network Magazine.  The whole issue was based on embracing the vibrant colors of different foods, and one of the articles focused on bringing together veggies of specific colors to make pureed soups. I made both a "green" version and a "yellow" version, and both made for flavorful lunches.  I recommend rounding out your meal with a small whole wheat or multi-grain roll, or some crackers.

The formula for this soup is pretty straightforward: saute aromatics, add a diced potato (for body and creaminess), along with dried spices of your choice.  Then simmer with up to three different vegetables from one color family (I used asparagus, zucchini, and edamame for my green soup, and summer squash, bell pepper, and corn for my yellow soup).  Finally, puree until smooth and finish with something fun -- I added feta to my thyme-flavored green soup and coconut milk and Sriracha to my Asian-inspired yellow soup.  The soup keeps well for a few days, so you can cook this on the weekend and then portion it out into containers for lunch during the week.  And, you can vary both the vegetables and the flavorings to suit your pantry and your mood.  Just stick to one color of vegetable to keep the colors bright.

Green Vegetable Soup (adapted from Food Network Magazine)
Makes 2-4 lunch servings

Olive oil
1/2 red onion, minced
Salt and pepper
1 medium russet potato, peeled and diced
1 bay leaf
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tsp garlic powder
1 cup chopped asparagus
1 cup chopped zucchini
1 cup frozen edamame (no need to thaw)
3-1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth, and more as needed
To serve: crumbled cheese (feta is excellent!)

1. Heat a generous drizzle of olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook until softened, 10 minutes or so, stirring often.  Season with salt and pepper.
2. Add the potato, stir to combine, and cook another 5-10 minutes, stirring often.
3. Add the bay leaf, thyme, garlic powder, asparagus, zucchini, edamame, and chicken broth.  Season again with more salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer until the veggies are completely tender, 15-20 minutes.
4. Let the soup cool a bit, and then puree using an immersion blender or regular blender.  For super smooth soup, force through a fine sieve.
5. If needed, thin the soup with more broth or water.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Pack in lunch containers, or if serving right away, reheat until hot.
6. When ready to serve, sprinkle with a crumbly cheese like feta or goat.

Yellow Vegetable Soup (adapted from Food Network Magazine)
Makes 2-4  lunch servings

Olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 small russet potato, peeled and diced
Salt and pepper
1 cup diced yellow summer squash
1 cup diced yellow bell pepper
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
3-1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 can light coconut milk
Sriracha, to serve

1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large soup pot.  Add the onion and cook until nicely softened, 8-10 minutes or so.  Add the garlic and potato, and season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring often, for another 5-6 minutes or so.
2. Add the squash, bell pepper, and corn, and stir to coat them in the oil.  Then add the chicken stock, fennel seeds, cardamom, and cumin.  Season with more salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender.
3. Add the coconut milk and stir to combine.
4. Let cool a bit, then puree using a blender or immersion blender until smooth. Store in lunch containers, or reheat to serve immediately.  Drizzle with Sriracha before serving if you like it spicy.

Other Lunch Box Posts: