Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Mexican Lasagna

I wasn't in the mood to cook, but I had some ground turkey in the fridge that was about to get funky. I also wasn't in the mood to go to the store, so it was time to get creative with my pantry.

I pulled some flour tortillas and corn out of the freezer, a can of enchilada sauce off the pantry shelf. Let's make this as easy as possible. I thought to myself. No need to chop onion and garlic; I just used spices from the cupboard to add pizzazz to the turkey browning on the stove. Then I started layering. Zippy sauce + flour tortillas + spicy filling + creamy cheese. Repeat. Bake. Stuff face. Mmmm.

What's that they say about necessity being the mother of invention? Well, it's also the mother of dinner. Delicious dinner.

Mexican Lasagna
Serves: 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground turkey or ground beef
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 tablespoon taco seasoning*
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
Salt and pepper
1 (14 ounce) can red enchilada sauce
5-6 flour tortillas, halved to fit in the baking dish
1 2/3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Sour cream, for serving
Salsa, for serving

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add turkey and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, about 8 minutes. If there is lots of liquid or fat in the pan, drain it off. Stir in corn, taco seasoning, and onion powder. Allow the spices to toast for 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pour about 1/3 cup enchilada sauce into a 9" baking dish and spread it around so it covers the bottom. Arrange tortillas in the baking dish to cover the sauce. Top tortillas with half of the turkey mixture and 1/2 cup cheese. Cover cheese with another layer of tortillas. Pour another 1/2 cup enchilada sauce over the tortillas and layer on remaining turkey mixture and another 1/2 cup cheese. Top with a final layer of tortillas, remaining enchilada sauce (about 1/2 cup), and remaining 2/3 cup cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes. Allow Mexican Lasagna to rest for 10 minutes before serving with sour cream and salsa.

*I used Penzey's Fajita Seasoning. If you don't have taco seasoning, I think a mixture of chili powder and cumin would do the job quite nicely.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Curry Spiced Pecans

Halloween is over, and Christmas has officially taken over Target. That's my signal to get ready for holiday fun.

Before the busyness overwhelms us, let's whip up a batch of Curry Spiced Pecans, and we'll be ready for whatever life brings. Appetizer for girls' night? Done. Crunchy snack for the football game? Done. Make-ahead hors d'oeuvre for Thanksgiving. Done. Thoughtful hostess gift? Oh, now you've outdone yourself.

Curry Spiced Pecans
Adapted from these Spiced Nuts

1 egg white
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound pecans (about 4 cups)
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together egg white, water, and salt until frothy. Add pecans and stir until coated. Drain pecans in a colander for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine sugar, curry powder, paprika, and cumin. Toss spices with the drained pecans and evenly divide them between prepared baking sheets. Bake for about 50 minutes, until the pecans are dry and crisp. A couple times throughout baking, stir the pecans and rotate the baking sheets so they cook evenly. Allow pecans to cool completely on the baking sheets, about 30 minutes. Break up the nuts and serve. Pecans can be stored in an airtight container for several weeks.

P.S. Here's an idea for you. I didn't use cayenne in today's recipe, but I bet these pecans would be delicious with 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne added with the other spices. Let me know if you give it a try!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Honey Curry Chicken

How do you feel about sidewalk chalk?

My boy is into it. Big time. Sometimes he colors himself, but most of the time he places requests so I can test out my artistic prowess. Or, as the case may be, my lack thereof. "Mama," he says, forcing chalk into my hand and guiding it to the sidewalk. "Draw NASCAR."

Yep. He's a car guy.

Now, along with many NASCARs in hues of pink, yellow, and blue, our back patio is littered with renditions of Indycars, fences, and air conditioners. Because I am realistic about my capabilities, I say in all honesty...they look terrible. I can't draw worth a lick.

I mention this because I took pictures of today's recipe on my back patio. That was the only place I could find decent lighting at dinner time. So I plunked my casserole dish on top of the chicken scratch and snapped away.

Honey Curry Chicken is simple and delicious. A marinade of pantry staples doubles as a rich sauce. Bonus points because it looks fancy when you top it with vibrant green cilantro.

And I think you'll's a good thing I can cook better than I draw.

Honey Curry Chicken
Adapted from Baked Bree
Serves: 4

1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup grainy mustard (or substitute Dijon)
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon curry powder
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

In a gallon-sized Ziploc baggie, combine honey, mustard, soy sauce, and curry powder. Mush the bag together until everything is combined. Add chicken breasts and mush the bag around again until they're evenly coated. Refrigerate the chicken overnight.

When you're ready to cook dinner, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9" x 13" baking dish with cooking spray. Dump the marinated chicken and the sauce into the prepared dish and cover with foil. Bake covered for 20 minutes. Uncover and use tongs to flip the chicken over. Continue to bake until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees, 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve chicken with additional sauce poured over top.

P.S. In case you're looking for a complete meal idea, I served Honey Curry Chicken with Coconut Rice, Sauteed Broccoli, and Pineapple.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins

I loved experimenting with pumpkin in a savory recipe when I made Pumpkin Black Bean Chili, but I had to return to my first pumpkin love: pumpkin muffins. Scented with warm spices and studded with mini chocolate chips, these muffins will brighten up even the dreariest fall morning.

And if you haven't reached pumpkin overload yet, check out these pumpkin recipes, too:

Aren't you glad it's pumpkin season?

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins
Makes 48 mini muffins
Adapted from this pumpkin bread recipe

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour*
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
4 egg whites
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt**
2/3 cup water
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a mini muffin tin*** and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour, pastry flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, stir together sugar, brown sugar, eggs, egg whites, oil, yogurt, water, and pumpkin. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir in chocolate chips.

Fill prepared mini muffin tins so each cup is full to the top. Bake for about 14 minutes, until the muffins spring back when you gently press down the top or a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in the tin, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely

*If you don't have whole wheat pastry flour, don't let that stop you from making this recipe! You can absolutely substitute all-purpose flour. (Use 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour.)
**I used non-fat vanilla Greek yogurt because that's what I found in my fridge. Feel free to use regular (non-Greek) yogurt or plain yogurt in place of the vanilla Greek yogurt.
***Not in the mood for mini-muffins? This recipe makes 24 standard muffins or two loaves of bread if you prefer. Bake standard muffins for 23-25 minutes and bread for about 1 hour.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Bacon Cheeseburger Rice

I was in search of dinner inspiration last week, and I went old school. People, I busted out the church cookbook from 2001.

These are the recipes of my youth. The casseroles, the jello salads, the cakes eaten off Styrofoam plates in the church basement. Comfort food made by people who love you. The smile on my face grew wider as I flipped through each page. Yes, I was thinking about how good Bonnie's Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole is, but more than that, I was thinking about how good the people are.

The recipe I landed on was contributed by Amy, our fearless babysitter back in the 90's. She took us to the county fair and let us swim until we were pruney. We spent summers cruising in the backseat of her giant whale of a car, listening to Billy Joel's Greatest Hits. I could hear the opening strains of Piano Man whispering through my subconscious as I made Amy's Bacon Cheeseburger Rice.

This is fall-is-here comfort food at its finest. Quick, easy, and delicious, The husband and I couldn't stop eating it. I kept sneaking bites as I was cleaning up the dinner dishes. Truth. Bacon Cheeseburger Rice will be a regular on the menu rotation around here.

Thanks for a divine hot dinner, Amy. And thanks for being such a great babysitter.

Bacon Cheeseburger Rice
Serves: 4-6
Gently adapted from the Randall Memorial Baptist Church Cookbook

6 strips bacon
1 pound ground beef or ground turkey
Salt and pepper
1 3/4 cups water
2/3 cup barbecue sauce
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 cups uncooked instant rice
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Once the bacon is cool enough to handle, crumble and set aside. Drain all but 1 tablespoon bacon grease from the pan and return to medium heat.

Add ground beef or turkey to reserved bacon grease and cook, stirring, until cooked through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add water, barbecue sauce, mustard, and onion powder. Bring to a boil and stir in rice. Sprinkle with cheese. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with reserved bacon before serving.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pumpkin Black Bean Chili

According to both the calendar and the weather, fall is officially here. This means it's time to break out the cozy sweaters, the flannel sheets, and, perhaps most importantly, the crock pot.

The slow cooker totally makes me feel like Wonder Woman. Why, yes, I can pick up the dry cleaning, grocery shop, clean the bathroom, and defeat crime while dinner cooks away on my kitchen counter. No cape necessary, thank-you-very-much.

To help you channel your inner super hero, the folks at Red Gold Tomatoes are having a slow cooker bonanza over on their Facebook page. They are giving away two Crock-Pots each day until October 8. (That's a lot of slow cookers, people.) They're also featuring some tasty-looking recipes in case you're lacking dinner inspiration.

Speaking of dinner inspiration, puh-lease check out this Pumpkin Black Bean Chili. We usually consider pumpkin for sweets: pumpkin lattes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cake. But don't put baby pumpkin in a corner. Try it out in a savory recipe, too. It adds delicious richness and depth.

Without further ado, let's get slow cooking. The world needs a few more super heroes.

Black Bean & Pumpkin Chili
Adapted from Red Gold Tomatoes
Serves: 10

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 pound ground turkey or chicken
Salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
2-3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5 ounce) can Red Gold Petite Diced Tomatoes with Lime Juice and Cilantro
1 (15 ounce) can solid-pack pumpkin
For serving: shredded cheese, sour cream, chopped avocado, tortilla chips (optional)

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and ground turkey. Cook, stirring occasionally, until turkey is cooked through, about 8 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chili powder, cumin, and coriander and cook for 1 minute to toast the spices. Stir in 2 cups chicken broth and scrape the bottom of the pan to incorporate any browned bits.

Transfer mixture to slow cooker. Add beans, tomatoes, and pumpkin and stir to combine. If the mixture looks too thick, stir in additional cup of chicken broth. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with your favorite chili toppings.

P.S. The kind people at Red Gold Tomatoes provided me with tomatoes to test this recipe, but the opinions are all mine. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Bread & Butter Pickles

Do you have a favorite type of pickle? I don't think I could choose just one. I love dill pickles on a burger or Cuban sandwich. Gherkins chopped up in my mother-in-law's potato salad. But the zesty cucs I eat most often are bread and butter. I pile those babies sky high on every sandwich that crosses my lunch plate. Turkey, ham, tuna; I don't discriminate. As long as every.single.bite includes the sweet crunch of bread and butter pickles, I'm happy.

Since I consume my body weight in pickles, I thought it might be wise—or at least fun—to try my hand at making my own. I wasn't about to bust out my canning equipment for this project, so I started reading recipes for refrigerator pickles. Here's the gist: Salt the cucumbers, cover them with a hot vinegar-sugar brine, let them sit in the fridge. Boom.

I waited the requisite 24 hours before taking my first bite. And I must admit, I was nervous. Even though these pickles were easy (seriously...really easy), I felt invested. I waited 24 hours to eat my creation. That's a lot of delayed gratification!

But, you guys, these things are delicious. Crunchy, tangy, sweet...good gracious. It is absolutely worth the minimal effort and 24 hours of patience to make your own pickles. Give it a whirl and let me know what you think.

Bread & Butter Pickles

4 pickling cucumbers*, sliced 1/4" thick
1/2 sweet onion, very thinly sliced (optional)
1 1/2 tablespoons Kosher salt
1 cup water
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1/8 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric

Toss together sliced cucumbers, onion, and salt. Cover and refrigerate for an hour and a half. Rinse thoroughly and drain. Place cucumbers and onion into canning jars or a non-reactive bowl.

Combine water, white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, sugar, bay leaf, and spices in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the sugar is dissolved. Pour hot liquid over cucumbers and onions. Let stand at room temperature for an hour. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours before serving. You can store the pickles in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

*Pickling cucumbers are also known as Kirby cucumbers. They're smaller than the standard cucs you slice up for salads, usually less than 6". If you can't find Kirby cucumbers, just use whatever kind you can track down at the grocery story.