Friday, March 15, 2013

Toasted Caesar Tortellini with Green Beans and Carrots

Happy Friday, all! This week was a real whirlwind between work and preparing for Norah's birthday. That means it's time for those easy peasy meals that take almost zero effort.

Today, I bring you something I whipped together using some past recipes and stuff I had in the fridge.

Toasted Caesar Tortellini with Green Beans and Carrots

1 pack of tortellini (I used six cheese, but any will do)
1 bag of ready to use green beans
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 onion, sliced
olive oil
bread crumbs
parmigiano reggiano cheese
cooking spray
1/2 cup Caesar dressing (I used light, but creamy would probably be delicious)

Cook the tortellini to one minute under package directions and drain.

While the water is boiling and the tortellini cooking, add a tablespoon of olive oil to a wok. Once hot, add beans, carrots and onion. Salt and pepper to taste. Saute for about 5 minutes, until beans are crisp, but not soft.

When tortellini are finished, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and toss the vegetables and pasta onto it. Spray a light coating of cooking spray onto the mixture. Take a handful of breadcrumbs and sprinkle on top. Do the same with the cheese. Turn your broiler to high and pop the sheet into the oven. Let cook for about five minutes, or until everything starts to crisp up.

Remove from broiler and return to the wok. Add dressing and stir. Enjoy!

The great thing about this recipe is that it is totally mix and match. Don't like green beans? Try squash or broccoli or spinach. Don't like caesar dressing? Try Italian, or you could even make your own! Use a light dressing for something a little healthier. Really love cheese? Use heaps of it! You can even increase the heat with some red pepper flakes. Totally easy and totally customizable! I hope you love it as much as we did!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Slow Cooker Carne Asada Tacos

Another week, another challenge for the 52 weeks of cooking. This week the challenge was tacos, which is right up my alley. Fajitas are one of my favorites things to make (and eat!) and tacos aren't very different as far as technique goes.

A couple weeks ago I made chicken fajitas in my slow cooker, so I thought I'd try to make the taco meat for this weeks challenge in the slow cooker as well. In the past year, I haven't used my slow cooker much, but I'm beginning to see the appeal. A little prep in the morning, let it cook all day and voila!, you have a tasty meal to come home to after a long day at work.

Enough mooning over my slow cooker, let's get to the recipe!

Slow Cooker Carne Asada Beef Tacos
adapted from the following recipes: Tyler Florence Tacos Carne Asada and Crock-pot Carne Asada Tacos


For the mojo:
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 large handful fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 limes, juiced
1 orange, juiced
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
For the tacos:
3 lb flank steak
flour or corn tortillas
shredded lettuce


To make the mojo:
In a mortar and pestle or bowl, mash together  food processor, pulse the garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, salt, and pepper to make a paste. Put the paste in a glass jar or plastic container. (I used a mason jar and it worked really well. Bonus: you could make a bigger batch and store half for later use.)Add the lime juice, orange juice, vinegar, and oil. Shake it up really well to combine.

Taco Meat:
Set your slow cooker to low for 8 hours. Place the meat flat on the bottom and pour the mojo over. Poke holes in the meat with a fork so the sauce can penetrate it while cooking. After 8 hours, remove the meat and shred. Return to the crock-pot and keep on warm until ready to serve.

Heating tortillas:
Set oven to 350. Wrap up to five tortillas in aluminum foil and place in oven for about 15 minutes. Keep wrapped until ready to serve.

Overall, I'd say this recipe was a win. The meat was very tender from cooking all day and the mojo was just right. I'm not a huge fan of cilantro so I was worried when the sauce called for so much, but it ended up being perfect. If you're looking for a complete meal, serve with black beans and rice. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Tofu Egg Rolls

It's Monday again, and that means I completed another goal towards my 52 week challenge over the weekend. This week it was tofu and I really struggled with whether I was even going to do it since I loathe tofu. I've had it on several occasions out at restaurants and have never liked it. It's spongy, the consistency is weird, and it doesn't really taste like anything.

In the spirit of the challenge, I decided to do it anyway. Hence, something sort of safe, tofu egg rolls.

Last week while visiting some of my favorite blogs, I came across this recipe for chicken egg rolls. I figured tofu could be easily substituted, so that's what I did - but I also made half of them with chicken in case the tofu ones were totally gross. My husband had one of each and he said he liked the tofu ones better - go figure!

Tofu Egg Rolls
adapted from Elly Says Opa!

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
1 package of extra firm tofu
4 scallions, sliced, white and green parts divided
2 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce, divided
4 cups coleslaw mix
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4″ knob of ginger, peeled and grated
2 cups fresh bean sprouts
1 package egg roll wrappers (the package I picked up contained 15 wrappers and was perfect for this recipe)
1 Tbsp. cornstarch, mixed with 3 tbsp cold water
cooking spray

Before starting, your tofu will need to be drained. Do this by setting on a plate with a paper towel underneath and on top of the tofu block. Place a heavy pan on top of the paper towel and press down. I let my sit like that for about a half hour before I used it and it seemed to work out okay.

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in wok or large pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Add tofu to the wok; cook about 2-3 minutes, breaking up as  you cook, before adding 1 Tbsp. of the soy sauce and the scallion whites. Continue to cook until chicken is browned and nearly cooked through, about 2-3 more minutes. Remove chicken to a plate and set aside to cool.

To the same pan, add the remaining 1 Tbsp. of vegetable oil. Stir in the coleslaw mix, garlic, ginger, and remaining Tbsp. of soy sauce. Use tongs to “toss” the vegetables. Cook, over high heat, for about 2 minutes or, until cabbage begins to wilt. Toss in the bean sprouts and scallion greens, and cook for about 1 minute more. Remove from the heat.

Combine the tofu and vegetables, mixing well. Place a colander in your sink, or over a large bowl. Add the egg roll mixture to the colander. Using several layers of paper towels, press down firmly on the egg roll filling, pressing out as much moisture as possible. Repeat process several times. Let filling cool before rolling into wrappers. (Make sure you don't skip this step - otherwise your egg rolls will end up soggy.)

Here's what the mixture looks like after it's drained.
Preheat the oven to 425.  Wrap the rolls according to the package directions, dipping your finger in the cornstarch/water mixture and then using it to seal the roll. Place the rolls on a baking sheet, spray with cooking oil. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

These egg rolls turned out fantastic. Since it's only me and my husband, I froze the ones we didn't eat so that we'll have something quick to eat in the future if dinner plans go awry. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Crock-pot Chicken Fajitas

I'm late on posting this, but it's another one to add to my 2013 cooking challenge. The one was entitled, "Guilty Pleasures".

Over the years I have grown to love the elements of tex-mex food. Black beans - yum. Yellow Rice - Mmmmm. Fajitas - anytime, anywhere. Especially at a restaurant because it's so fun to have that sizzling plate delivered to you.

I consider this a guilty pleasure because the method I used to prepare it this week was so sinfully easy. Cue: the slow cooker!

Crock-pot Chicken Fajitas

1 lb chicken breasts
1 onion, cut into chunks
3 peppers, cut into slices, any color will do
1 package of taco seasoning (I wanted fajita seasoning, but the store was all out - they're basically the same anyway, so no big deal)
Guacamole, cheese and salsa for topping

Place onions and peppers into crock-pot. Put chicken on top. Sprinkle seasoning onto the chicken. Add about an ounce or so of water. Cook for 8-10 hours on low. Before serving, shred chicken.

I served mine sans tortilla since I'm trying to watch my calories. (More room for guacamole that way!)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Mother Sauces - Tomato

This week the challenge for 52 weeks of cooking is entitled "Mother Sauces". For those of you not familiar with the five French mother sauces, this article on sums it up nicely. They're called mother sauces because once you know how to make them, you can make some slight changes for an endless amount of sauces. For example, once you learn hollandaise, you can make béarnaise, dijon, foyot, choron, maltaise or mousseline sauces. See? It's all about building a foundation to work upon.

Before I get to the recipe, I have a confession to make. I had no idea what mother sauces were before I did this challenge. When I saw the title I thought, "Oh, sauces your mom was really good at!" So I made a tomato sauce (which we call gravy). Lucky for me, tomato sauce will qualify. Since I have until Sunday to complete the challenge, I might try to conquer another one of these mother sauces. There's no crime is doing the challenge twice, is there?


Tomato Mother Sauce


2 large cans tomato puree
1 12 oz can tomato paste
1 14.5 oz can of diced tomato (I like petite diced, no salt added)
2 carrots, diced
1 onion, diced
garlic powder

Pour puree and diced tomatoes into a large pot and turn heat to low. While that heats through, saute the onion and in a pan with about a tablespoon of oil. Once onions are translucent remove from heat and add 2/3 (the remainder can be used in meatballs) to the sauce. Repeat the process with the carrots, only add all of them to the puree. Scoop the tomato paste out of the can and into the pan you just sauteed the onions in and put over low heat. Add some water to the can to get the last bits out and pour this over the puree. Add abut two teaspoons of each spice listed above and stir the paste until it all comes together and thickens up. Once it has the consistency of a very thick sauce, add it to the puree that's simmering in the other pot. Stir so that it all combines. Let simmer for at least an hour, but it's best when it simmers all day and really has a chance to get thick.