shrimp tacos with roasted corn salsa

Tired of the same ol’ same ol’ of fish tacos?  This is a no-brainer substitution:  just add shrimp.  But you’ll find the real magic to this recipe is in the roasted corn salsa.  It was bursting with flavor and really pretty to the eye.  The original recipe called for avocado instead of tomato, but no one in my house is really a big fan of the avocado, and the tomato added lovely color to what would have been a fairly bland looking salsa.  Roasting the corn really enhanced its sweetness, and that was nicely complimented by the tanginess of the lime and the pungent cilantro.

There’s a fair amount of chopping for prep, but once you have all that finished the dish flies together pretty quickly.  The shrimp cook rapidly, so pay close attention otherwise they’ll be chewy and overdone.  It’s a perfect recipe for weeknight dinners when you don’t have a lot of time to slave over the stove, too.   I’ll definitely be putting this one in the rotation and the salsa has a lot of potential for use in other dishes, as well.

I hate to type and run, but I have to hurry off and pick up the kiddo from a friend’s house.  Let me know if you give it a try.  Enjoy!

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Shrimp Tacos with Roasted Corn Salsa (recipe adapted from Cooking Light, August 2013)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels (about 1 large ear)
  • 1 teaspoon Extra Virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 cup light sour cream
  • 8 (6-inch) corn tortillas

Directions:

  1. Preheat broiler to high.
  2. Combine corn and oil in small bowl; toss gently to coat. Arrange corn in an even layer on a jelly-roll pan; broil 6 minutes or until lightly browned. Combine corn, onions, cilantro, 1 tablespoon juice, salt, pepper, and avocado in a medium bowl; toss gently.
  3. Heat a large grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Combine shrimp, 1 tablespoon juice, and honey in a medium bowl; toss to coat. Add shrimp to pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until done.
  4. Combine sour cream and remaining 1 tablespoon juice in a small bowl.
  5. Warm tortillas according to package directions. Place 2 tortillas on each of 4 plates. Top each tortilla with about 1/4 cup corn mixture, about 4 shrimp, and 1 1/2 teaspoons sour cream mixture.

plated_tacos©zouptonuts

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pork and brussels sprouts stir fry

I’m a huge fan of the Brussels Sprout.  It’s probably my favorite vegetable of all time, or a close second to….hmmm (long pause while I think about what might be a close second).  Nah, it’s the Brussels Sprout, hands down!  Sadly, though, for lovers of these delicious orbs of savory goodness, the season is quickly coming to an end.  Yes, spring vegetables are on the way.  There will soon be bunches upon bunches of young, firm spears of vibrant green asparagus, which I also adore.  But I’ll miss the Brussels Sprouts clear through to next winter.

I found this recipe on Pinterest, yet again.  It seems to be where I’m finding a lot of really good recipes these days.  The only adaptation I made was to reduce the amount of chili pepper paste from 2 tablespoons to just a smidgen over 1 tablespoon given a seven-year old was eating and I’d rather have not quite enough heat than too much.  Reduced heat means increased odds of the kiddo actually trying what I’ve cooked for dinner.  It turned out to be just the right amount for us and it’s clearly an ingredient, like the garlic, you can add/subtract according to your palate.  I never reduce garlic, though.  That would be a travesty!

This dish got thumbs up around the table.  It’s super easy to put together and calls for just a handful of ingredients.  I served it with Jasmine rice – which is very aromatic and flavorful on its own, but didn’t overpower the great flavors of this dish.  I’d say it’s probably even better for lunch the next day but I didn’t get the chance to find out.  No leftovers.  That’s a winner at our house.

So gather ye sprouts while ye may, right?  Indulge in the best of winter veggies before it’s too late.  Enjoy!

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Pork and Brussels Sprouts Stir-Fry (recipe courtesy BetsyLife – A Sunny Perspective)

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 pound boneless pork loin chops, cut into 1/4-inch thick strips
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved and loose leaves removed
  • 2 scallions, whites and greens sliced separately
  • 2 Tbsp Gourmet Garden garlic paste
  • 2 Tbsp Gourmet Garden chili pepper paste
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 c bean sprouts, fresh

Directions:

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; add pork and cook until golden; transfer to plate.

Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil and sprouts to pan; cook, stirring occasionally, until brown and tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Add scallion whites, garlic and chili pepper; cook 1 minute. Add soy sauce, brown sugar and 1/4 cup water; cook until sauce is slightly thickened.

Return pork to pan and toss to coat. Top with scallion greens and bean sprouts and serve immediately.

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Cook’s Notes:  The first time I made this recipe I used the designated amount of pork (1/2 lb), but I have to admit I felt cheated on the meat.  This time I doubled the pork to a full pound and found that to be a better proportion, especially with a full pound of Brussels Sprouts.  Also, I used Earthbound Farm Organic brand for the garlic and chili pepper paste.  The brand of your choice will do.

lentil soup with beef

We went up to the mountains last weekend to celebrate my (ahem) 29th birthday…again!  When I told non-Arizonan friends we went “up north,” I was questioned about what it means, exactly, to go “up north” in Arizona.  Personally, it’s pretty much anywhere it isn’t 90 degrees on my birthday.  For us, that meant stealing off to Pine, AZ, located about 110 miles northeast of the valley and tucked into the mountains just below the Mogollon Rim.  At 5,500 feet of elevation, it meant I got to wear jeans and socks and real shoes.  With closed toes!!  Ahhhhh…

It also meant I didn’t have to cook because, you see, it was my birthday weekend, and those duties were off-limits to me.  I got to sit on the porch and drink red wine and read.  I got to relax and hike and see some pretty spectacular scenery.  Perfect for a birthday weekend, if you ask me.

We did eat a couple of meals out, including lunch one day at a cute little mom-and-pop restaurant called The Randall House.  The air was cool, the fall leaves were crunchy underfoot, and the sun was shining brightly in a gorgeous blue sky.  The day called for lunch in the shade on the patio and a cup of their homemade Beef and Lentil Soup.

Needless to say, I was disappointed at the end.  Disappointed it was gone.  Disappointed I hadn’t ordered a bowl instead of a cup.  Disappointed they wouldn’t give me the super-secret recipe!!  So, of course, when we got home I set out to replicate the amazing soup I’d had at The Randall House.  It had to be done!  It was of such urgency, I didn’t even photograph the prep work.

This recipe was super easy and came courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis at The Food Network.  If I set out to recreate a really good bowl of homemade soup, this recipe was spot on.  The soup is incredibly flavorful and hearty.  My only adaptation to the recipe was to reduce the amount of beef stock.  I have a pretty large Dutch Oven, but the original recipe called for 84 ounces (more than 10 cups) of beef stock.  I think I used about 6 cups of beef stock.  This made the soup a bit thicker, but I prefer heartier to too-thin broth.  Eyeball it.  If it looks too thick, add more stock.

Enjoy!

Lentil Soup with Beef

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 large celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 6 (14-ounce) cans low-sodium beef broth
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 2 cups (about 11 ounces) lentils, rinsed
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves (optional)

Preparation:

Sprinkle the beef with salt and pepper.  Heat the oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat.  Add half of the beef and cook until brown, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining beef.

Add the celery, carrots, onion, garlic, rosemary, and oregano to the pot. Saute until the onions are translucent, about 8 minutes. Return the beef and any accumulated juices from the bowl to the pot.

Add the broth and tomatoes with their juice. Bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the meat is just tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.

Add the lentils. Cover and continue simmering until the lentils are tender, about 40 minutes. Stir in the parsley. Season the soup, to taste, with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.

couscous chicken salad

I made a salad the other night that was, well….how can I say this? It was damn near inedible. Actually, that’s probably too strong a word. It was not good! Thankfully, it was a side dish so the bulk of the meal redeemed my cooking cred.  But I ended up throwing away pretty much ALL of it (which is pathetic and shameful considering we packed meals at our local Feed My Starving Children site today and were reminded that 18,000 kids die every day from hunger related complications).  So, when I even remotely considered using leftover chicken for this salad, I had two thoughts:

1.  My husband will refuse to eat another salad (this time posing as the entree), based on our negative experience only a few days before and I’ll end up wasting more food; and,

2.  My husband will refuse to eat yet another “meal” wrapped in lettuce!

It’s not the manliest of dinners.  It’s got grains and veggies and poultry and fruit.  And it’s not even really wrapped in lettuce (decidedly unmanly Bibb lettuce, of all things), it’s served ON the lettuce; the likes of which you might enjoy at a baby shower or at lunch with your best girlfriend.

The one thing this recipe had going for it, though, was the fact my mom had given it to me.  My mom was a great cook.  She could readily recognize a sub-par recipe by simply scanning the ingredient list.  She always showed up at my house with her carry-on bag stuffed with recipe clippings she’d culled from various newspapers and magazines.  I knew my mom wouldn’t let me down!

This recipe is good.  Really good.  It’s light, delicious, and full of great textures and a huge variety of flavors; tart, crunchy, earthy, tangy, just plain good.   Yes, it’s perfect for a summer lunch with friends, but when you live in the desert, light and delicious salads are just part of the rotation.  My husband did not refuse to eat it.  He ate, gave me a two-thumbs-up, and then he ate some more.  At less than 300 calories per serving, that’s ok.  Dig in and enjoy!!

Couscous Chicken Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 C low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 C tri-color pearl couscous
  • I Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 C extra-virgin olive oil
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 C cooked, diced chicken
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 large, Granny Smith apple, cored and diced
  • 1 large rib celery, diced
  • Bibb lettuce leaves

Directions:

In saucepan, bring stock to a boil.  Add couscous and butter.  Bring to a boil again, then simmer per package directions (8 to 10 minutes).  Remove from heat, fluff with fork and set aside to cool.

Combine olive oil, lemon juice, salt, coriander, mustard, garlic and pepper.  Wisk until well mixed.  In large bowl, combine cooled couscous, chicken, onions, apple and celery.  Add olive oil mixture and toss to coat.  Serve over Bibb lettuce leaves.

slow cooker shredded beef sandwiches

The other day I was flipping through a stack of recipes, lamenting the heat and begrudging having to cook dinner for the next string of 110+ degree days.  It was also one of those days I was particularly missing my mom – grief is such a long, strange process.  About a third of the way through the pile of recipe cards, this one fell out and fluttered to the floor.  My mom had handwritten it for me when she visited the last time before she died.  It was a staple in her repertoire when I was growing up.  I took it as something of a sign:  Mom’s recipe, no slaving over a hot oven required.  Thanks, Mom.  I needed that.

These sandwiches are perfect no matter what the weather.  They’re savory and comforting in the cold, and easy-peasy in the heat.  They’re also great for a pot-luck when you’re feeding a crowd.  Best ever cole slaw recipe to follow.  Enjoy!

Shredded Beef Sandwiches 

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs beef chuck pot roast, trimmed
  • 1/3 c vinegar
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder

Directions:

Trim fat from roast and place in 3 to 4 quart slow cooker.  Combine vinegar, onion, bay leaves, salt, cloves, and garlic powder; pour over meat.  Cover and cook on low heat for 11 to 12 hours or until meat is very tender.  Remove meat and use forks to shred, discarding any bones or fat.  If desired line hearty rolls with spinach or lettuce leaf of your choice, or top with cole slaw.  Strain meat juices, skim fat.  Serve juices with sandwiches for dipping.  Serves 8 to 10.

teriyaki salmon

I originally found this recipe while scouring some boards on Pinterest and decided it sounded so good I would actually end my boycott of cooking salmon at home.  For the most part, I like salmon…when it’s done perfectly by a 5 star chef or my good friend, Vicki, back home in Michigan.  Aside from that, I’ve always been really skeptical of my own abilities to do it well.  Generally, I consider myself a pretty good cook, but salmon has always intimidated me.  I don’t know if it’s because it’s a strongly flavored fish, or because it’s too expensive to risk screwing up.  Either way, I’ve always shied away from it – despite all proven health benefits of eating more salmon.

The teriyaki is what intrigued me about this recipe.  It seemed like a flavor that would stand up well to the strong salmon flavor I’ve always feared.  And it do so beautifully.  The finished product was as delicious as it was pretty!  You’ll see, though, I used steaks instead of the suggested fillets, which was my mistake.  The steaks were much thicker and required extra care in baking, and they also had a lot more bones.  Next time I’ll definitely use the fillets.  Enjoy!

Teriyaki Salmon
adapted from My Father’s Daughter, by Gwenyth Paltrow (via Milk & Mode)

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon peeled and finely grated ginger
  • 2 sprigs fresh cilantro
  • squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • 4 6-ounce salmon fillets
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh chives, for serving

Combine the soy sauce, white wine, sugar, honey, water, ginger, lemon juice, and cilantro in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer about 2 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the sauce to cool until it’s just warm to the touch. Pour into a plastic freezer bag and add the salmon. Turn the bag a few times to coat the salmon, and marinate in the fridge for at least an hour (can also be marinated overnight)

To cook the salmon, preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil, spray lightly with cooking spray, and arrange the salmon in a single layer with whatever sauce adheres to it. Broil 6-8 minutes, or until it flakes easily with a fork and is just cooked through. While it’s cooking, strain the extra sauce into a clean saucepan, bring to a boil, and reduce until thick and syrupy.

To serve, drizzle the cooked salmon with some of the extra sauce and a sprinkle of chives.

spinach and ricotta stuffed shells

Doesn’t everybody have a recipe like this?  I think a variation of this recipe has been handed down from generation to generation of cooks for decades.  But that doesn’t mean stuffed shells have worn out their welcome at our dinner table.  It means it’s one of those consistently good, go-to recipes everybody should have on hand in the event dinner inspiration is lacking.  I like this one because it reminds me of my mom, who taught me how to make it, and because it’s just a good, filling, comforting meal.  I use spinach, but chopped broccoli works well, too.  In fact, I think any green veggie, chopped or shredded, would work.

Also, since I’m a big advocate of cooking with your kids, this is an easy one for budding chefs to have lots of hands-on time.  I’m a bit nostalgic at the moment, having just lost my mom so recently, but putting this together for dinner last night with my 6 year old was a little bit of a walk down memory lane, too.  I have really fond memories of helping my mom in the kitchen – to the extent what I was doing was actually helpful – and that’s a huge part of what I love about cooking now.  So, letting Kat slosh marinara to her heart’s content is part of my joy of cooking.  I should probably add it to the instructions:  Give your kid a spoon and let ’em have at it.  Enjoy!

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Ingredients:

  • 2 dozen jumbo shells, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 15 oz container low-fat ricotta cheese
  • 1 8 oz package part skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 10 oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1/2 c Parmesan cheese, shredded or grated
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp parsley, dried
  • 1 tsp oregano, dried
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 3 c marinara sauce
Instructions:
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Cook jumbo shells as directed.  Drain on paper towel.  Thaw spinach and drain well, squeezing out excess moisture by the handful.  Combine with cheese, beaten eggs, salt, parsley, oregano and pepper.
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Spread a thin layer of marinara sauce in 13 x 9 baking pan.  Fill shells with about 2 Tbsp of mixture.  Place filled shells (one deep) in dish and cover with remaining sauce.  Bake at 350° for 35 minutes.  Makes 6 – 8 servings of 3 – 4 shells.

Kitchen Notes:  This recipe freezes really well, too.  Thaw to room temp then bake as directed.

stay-in-bed stew

When I was a kid and my mom made stew, I remember her cubing and dredging and browning the stew meat before she could add her veggies and stock.  I loved the stew.  I always thought the cubing and dedging and browning was A LOT of work.  I don’t generally mind the prep work of stew; the slicing of veggies and crushing of garlic.  Chopping is theraputic in a way.  But standing over a pan of spitting hot oil on top of all that??  Never mind.

A good friend of  mine is a retired Naval Commander.  The guy can seriously cook.  But even he has his limits and sometimes there are days when spending even part of the day in the kitchen is off limits.  He shared this stew with me a while back.  He calls it Stay-in-Bed Stew because, feasibly, you could load up your dutch oven with ingredients and just go back to bed.  Or to the gym, or shopping, or to the zoo.  That’s why I just call it “easy-peasy.”  No trimming, dredging, browning, hot oil spatter, mess to clean up.  Just dump it all in the crockpot or a 3 quart dutch oven and let it simmer.

Stay-in-Bed Stew

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2lbs stewing beef
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup onions, finely chopped
  • 1-2 chopped potatoes
  • 1 chopped parsnip
  • 2 chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 whole allspice kernels
  • 1 can beef bullion
  • 1 15oz. can tomato sauce
  • 3 tablespoons tapioca

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 275F.   Combine all ingredients in a Dutch oven, cover, and cook for 4 1/2 hours.  If you’re using a crockpot, cook on high for 4 1/2 hours.  Serve with a hearty cabernet and crusty bread.  Enjoy!

***Cook’s Notes:  Parsnips are such a wonderful root veggie and are in season this time of year.  Although the original recipes has all the ingredients cooking for the same amount of time, I throw the parsnips in late to retain their lovely, nutty flavor.  You can add them in the last 30 minutes of cooking if you’d like.  Also, like all stews, this thickens up when refrigerated.  Thin with more beef stock or a little water when reheating.