Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Grilled Beef Pita Sandwiches with Spicy Tahini Sauce

I was given the opportunity to review "The New Sonoma Cookbook" recently.  I found this book to be chock full of beautiful pictures and delicious sounding recipes made with real food.  

I really do like the sound of these recipes; nothing too fancy, just simple, easy to find ingredients with a lot of vegetables.  Some of the things I'm looking forward to making are balsamic red onions, Spanish Rioja country soup, and tomatoes with crispy bread topping.  But the first recipe I chose is called Grilled Beef Pita Sandwiches with Spicy Tahini sauce.  I was happy to find this recipe since I had leftover tahini from when I made hummus.  

This recipe assumes you have already prepared 8 ounces of flank steak by rubbing it with a mixture of seasonings (cumin, garlic, chile flakes, salt, pepper and lemon) and grilling it.  I had already prepared that the day before so it made it really easy.

Here's the recipe for you:

Grilled Beef Pita Sandwiches
1/2 cup chopped tomato 
1/2 cup chopped cucumber
1 cup shredded romaine
1 tbsp lemon juice
4 whole wheat pitas
8 ounces leftover flank steak, sliced
2 oz feta cheese, crumbled

Toss the tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce with the lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Lightly toast the pitas and cut each in half.  Divide the sliced beef among the pitas.  Sprinkle 1/2 ounce feta into each pita.  Top with tomato mixture and tahini sauce.

Spicy Tahini Sauce
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1/2 cup tahini, mixed well
1/3 cup lemon juice (I think this may have been a bit too much)
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tbsp chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Combine garlic, tahini, lemon, water and spices in food processor.  Mix until smooth.  Add olive oil, pulse just to mix.  Add herbs, salt and pepper.  Thin with more water if necessary.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Peanut Butter Balls & Chicken Chilaquiles: Part 2

My daughter takes her lunch to school almost every day, and it's safe to say we are in a bit of a *rut.  I've tried the wraps, she usually hates them. I've tried sending soup in a thermos, that takes more pre-planning than I'm able to muster.  And I'm sure she's definitely sick of the same old granola bars and snack bars.  I'm sure she'd love it if I filled her lunch box with peanut butter cups, so I'd say these are the next best thing.  

Not to imply they taste like a pb cup, but they are pretty darned good.  In fact I'm having a little bit of a hard time right now not scarfing down the remainder of them while she's at school.  I'm not sure it's the absolute healthiest recipe around, but at least you can pronounce everything that's in it.  And it's definitely something the kids can help with.  
Here's the recipe I found at Mommy's Kitchen.

1 cup honey
1 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 cups dry powdered milk
3 cups oatmeal (instant or old fashioned) uncooked
1-2 tbsp wheat germ (I didn't have any but I had some flax seeds so I ground up a couple tablespoons and threw them in)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips 
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs

Mix it all together with a hand mixer.  Form balls by hand and place on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.  Freeze until firm then store in a large ziploc in the refrigerator. 

I know I just made chicken chilaquiles a few weeks ago and shared them with you, but I made a slightly different version this past week from my new cookbook I keep talking about, the "Food Matters Cookbook".  I think I like this version slightly better because of the bell peppers and fresh poblano in it.  I have to confess I didn't go to all the trouble of deep frying my tortillas,  I just toasted them; and I think bagged tortilla chips would be just fine.  

8 small corn tortillas (stale is ok)
1/2 cup olive or vegetable oil
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs (I used 3 breasts)
2 poblano (or other fresh mild chiles) seeded and sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 onion halved and sliced
1 tbsp minced garlic
8 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped (canned are fine, instructions read to strain them but I preferred it with the juices)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
lime wedges

1. Cut tortillas in half then into 1 inch wide strips.  Put the oil in deep skillet over med-high heat.  Fry the strips, turning frequently until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels. 

2.  Pour off all the oil except 2 tbsp.  Add the chicken and cook until done.  (I have to also confess I just boiled the chicken, just seemed easier)  Add the poblanos and bell pepper, onion and garlic.  Cook about 5 to 10 minutes until vegetables begin to soften.  Add tomatoes and simmer for 2-3 minutes. 

3.  When the chicken is cool enough to handle chop and return to the pan with vegetable mixture.  Along with the tortillas.  Cook for 2-3 minutes.  Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with lime wedges.  

*Any lunch box advice is very appreciated!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Pasta with Caramelized Fennel and Onion

As one of Mark Bittman's newest fans, I now bring you the first thing I made from his book, "The Food Matters Cookbook".  I think fennel is so pretty as well as being crunchy and delicious, and I'm always happy to find a way to use it.  (okay so this only the second time I've ever used it, but who's counting?)

I really liked this dish, and all members of the family managed to eat some, so that's saying a lot.  I added some ground chicken sausage, and sauteed spinach for color.  

Here's the recipe for you:

Makes: 4 servings
  • Salt
  • 3 large or 4 medium fennel bulbs, cored and sliced
  • 1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • Black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 ounces any pasta, preferably whole wheat
  • 1/2 cup white wine, optional
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Put the fennel, onion, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper in a large, deep skillet over medium-low heat. Cover and cook, stirring every 5 minutes, until the vegetables have given up their liquid and are almost sticking to the pan. Add 3 tablespoons of the oil, raise the heat to medium-high, and cook, uncovered, until the vegetables are nicely browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Turn off the heat.

2. Cook the pasta in boiling water until it's tender but not mushy.  When it's almost done, turn the heat under the skillet to medium, add the wine or some of the pasta cooking water to the pan, and stir to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom.  Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the cooking water.  Toss the pasta in the pan with  the fennel and onion, adding a little of the pasta cooking water if the dish seems dry.  Season as desired and drizzle with the remaining olive oil.  Serve immediately. 

BTW...I'm really enjoying this cookbook.  There are so many things I'm looking forward to making, I don't even know where to start!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Birthdays and Hummus

Those two things just go hand in hand, don't they?  Where have I been lately, you may be asking?  Just letting the little things all overwhelm me.  Back to school stressed me unnecessarily, I'm trying to diet, and have been a little down in the dumps.  Coincidence, I think not!  But it does bring me to the hummus.

I'm a brand new Mark Bittman convert.  I took some of my hard-earned FoodBuzz money and purchased his book "Food Matters" and the cookbook that goes along with it.  I guess Mark's story is he was getting older and fatter, bad stuff was happening to his health, and his doctor told him he needed to become a vegan.  Which sort of clashed with his line of work, being a food writer and all.  But he decided to try a plan where he is a "vegan until 6" everyday...eating no animal products, just plants, plants, plants.  Then after 6 eat a normal dinner without gluttonizing, and it worked for him.  

So I thought to myself, if he can do it, maybe I can do it.  I like plants.  So I spent this past Sunday prepping veggies, and making beans and oatmeal and brown rice in mass quantities so I would have easy access to things I can eat and so far so good.  I've taken a few pounds off, and feel like it's something I can live with.  Why am I telling you all this?  Beats the snot out of me; here's Bittman's recipe for hummus.

  • 2 cups drained well-cooked or canned chickpeas, liquid reserved

  • 1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste), optional, with some of its oil

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus oil for drizzling

  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled, or to taste

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin or paprika, or to taste, plus a sprinkling for garnish

  • Juice of 1 lemon, plus more as needed

  • Put it all together in the food processor and blend it together, adding more liquid from the chickpeas if needed.  

    So mine came out a little dry, guess I should have added more liquid.  And it made way more than I needed since I'm the only one who eats it.  Wonder if it freezes well.

    And as for birthdays, my little 5th grade flute-playing chickadee turned 11 today.  She's growing up so fast!  

    This was the first year she requested a homemade birthday cake, and she wanted the same one I made for her dad back in June, without the raspberry sauce.  So obviously that required extra frosting on top!  

    Just as delicious as I remembered.  And there's no chickpeas in it!

    Monday, August 8, 2011

    Homemade Laundry Detergent and The Devil's Quiche

    I've been thinking for while about making my own laundry detergent after seeing the recipe here.  The biggest deterrent was that I kept forgetting to save my milk jugs, but I finally managed to salvage a couple and set forth to make detergent.

    It was really way easier than I expected.  It doesn't leave your clothes especially fragranced, but they definitely smell fresh. I haven't tried it on any tough stains so I can't say how great it would be at that.  
    Here's the recipe should you decide you'd like to give it a try.

    Homemade Laundry Detergent

    1 bar of soap (any kind)

    1 cup borax
    1 cup washing soda (I found the arm and hammer brand with the laundry detergent)
    a big pot (holds more than 2 gallons)
    a grater
    a funnel
    2 empty gallon jugs/containers

    Grate the bar of soap into your pot.
    Add a gallon of water to the pot with the soap.  Cook until soap dissolves.
    Add borax and washing soda.  Bring to a boil. 
    Turn off the heat.  Add one gallon of cold water and stir well.
    Fill each container.

    The mixture gets kind of "congealed" after it cools.  Shake it before dispensing to mix anything that has settled.  Use about 1/2 cup per load of laundry.

    So I was talking on Facebook about making this, and one of my friends mentioned that washing soda can be caustic, and needs to be handled with care.  And could possibly wear down your clothes faster.  Then another friend mentioned she's been using this for a year and has had no problems.  So I guess you just have to weigh the pros and cons and decide if it's something you want to do or not.  The ingredients are certainly cheap enough, and I have enough left over to make several more batches.
    Also, after reading I've found you need to be sure not to use it with bleach

    Now on to food....
    Quite some time back I made a dip call Jalapeno Popper Dip that I found at Closet Cooking.  It was quite delicious, so when I saw that Kevin had made a quiche inspired by the same dip, I had to go for it. 

    Don't let my silly name fool you, it's pretty tasty.  I'm sure even old Scratch himself would approve.  But it definitely had some heat to it (and I didn't even use as many peppers as the recipe called for).    

    Here's the recipe, if you'd like to wake up your taste buds...go for it!

    • 1 (9 inch) pie shell, pre-baked  (if you buy storebought like I did, get deep dish)
    • 1/2 cup cream cheese, room temperature
    • 2 jalapenos, diced (seed them is you prefer less heat)  (I only used one here)
    • 1/2 cup milk
    • 1/2 cup cream
    • 5 large eggs, lightly beaten
    • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 1 jalapeno, sliced
    • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
    1. Spread the cream cheese over the bottom of the pie crust and sprinkle on the diced jalapenos.
    2. Heat the milk and cream over medium heat until just before it boils, about 5 minutes and pour it into a large bowl.
    3. Pour the eggs into the heated cream while stirring constantly.
    4. Mix in the paprika and salt.
    5. Pour the mixture into the pie plate and bake in a preheated 350F oven for 30 minutes.
    Remove from oven, arrange the jalapeno slices on top, sprinkle with cheese and bake until the cheese has melted and turned golden brown, about 15 minutes.

    *I don't know why my post has those white strips through it here and there. Please be my friend anyway*

    Thursday, August 4, 2011

    Chicken Chilaquiles

    Just a quick post tonight but I wanted to get this up because I think it's highly important that you make this dish as soon as humanly possible.

    This is a Martha Stewart recipe and it meets all my criteria for fast, easy, and delicious.  It calls for a rotisserie chicken which makes it all that much quicker, but if you had the time and inclination, you could certainly roast your own.  And I think next time I make it  (and there will be a next time) I'll add a little can of those diced green chili peppers.  Oh, just to satisfy my curiosity I looked up the word "chilaquiles", and it mostly just means a dish served over crispy corn tortillas.  

    Here's Martha's Recipe...go forth and make!

    Printer-friendly recipe

    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes, in puree
    • 2 canned chipotle chilies in adobo, finely chopped (about 1 heaping tablespoon), plus 1 tablespoon adobo sauce (from same can)
    • Coarse salt
    • 1 small cooked rotisserie chicken (about 1 3/4 pounds), skinned and shredded (about 4 cups), carcass discarded
    • 1/2 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves, chopped, plus 4 sprigs for garnish
    • 4 cups (about 3 ounces) tortilla chips
    • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
    • 1 3/4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1/4 cup)  *I used queso fresco*


    1. Combine oil and garlic in a large (3-to-4-quart) saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and sizzling, 1 to 2 minutes.
    2. Add tomatoes with their puree (breaking tomatoes up), chipotles and adobo, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil; season with salt. Reduce heat and simmer rapidly until lightly thickened, 6 to 8 minutes.
    3. Add chicken and cook, stirring, until hot, about 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in chopped cilantro.
    4. Divide chips among four shallow bowls; top with chicken mixture and sauce. Garnish with cilantro sprigs, sour cream, and feta. Serve.

    Wednesday, August 3, 2011


    We spent some time in northern Arizona in a cabin this past week, and I wanted to make a dish that was delicious and warming.  When I ran across this Goulash recipe from Smitten Kitchen I knew I wanted to try it.

    I loved this recipe, and the chunks of meat got all tender from the long simmer time.  If I had been at home with all my spices and seasonings, I probably would have added a dash of hot sauce of some sort.  Otherwise it was perfect just the way it was.

    Make and enjoy!

    Makes about 16 cups, serving 12
    5 slices bacon, chopped
    3 pounds boneless chuck, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
    2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    4 medium onions (about 1 1/2 pounds), chopped fine
    3 garlic cloves, minced
    3 tablespoons paprika (preferably Hungarian sweet)
    1 1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds
    1/3 cup all-purpose flour
    1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
    1/4 cup tomato paste
    5 cups beef broth1 to 5 cups water or beer (use the former to make a stew, the latter to make a soup)
    1 teaspoon salt 
    2 red bell peppers, chopped fine

    In an 8-quart heavy kettle cook bacon over moderate heat, stirring, until crisp and transfer with a slotted spoon to a large bowl. In fat remaining in kettle brown chuck in small batches over high heat, transferring it as browned with slotted spoon to bowl.
    Reduce heat to moderate and add oil. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring, until golden. Stir in paprika, caraway seeds, and flour and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Whisk in vinegar and tomato paste and cook, whisking, 1 minute. (Mixture will be very thick.) Stir in broth, water, salt, bell peppers, bacon, and chuck and bring to a boil, stirring. Simmer soup, covered, stirring occasionally, 60 to 75 minutes.
    Season soup with salt and pepper. Soup may be made 3 days ahead and cooled, uncovered, before chilling, covered. Reheat soup, thinning with water if desired.

    *this is a giant recipe...I halved it and it fed 6 just fine
    *I used half beer and half water, so it turned out a little more "soupy"

    Before we took off for the mountains I was looking for a quick and easy dinner to make and decided on this CPK copycat for Thai Chicken Pizza.

    Honestly I can't find the exact recipe I used (helpful, I know), but there are dozens out there.  I bought a premade whole wheat crust from Trader Joe's to save time.  It was good at first, but I'm not 100% sure I like Thai food, and the peanut butter flavor got a bit overwhelming. 

    Also before we left, I had the opportunity to try these wonderful little sandwich croissants made by Thomas.  

    I'd like to say I did something clever with them like made a breakfast sandwich or fill them with a beautiful chicken salad, but no.  They were tasty and we just shoved them in our mouths.  Maybe next time I'll be more patient and do something fun with them. I would definitely buy them if I saw them at the store.