Burrito Bowls

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This isn’t a real post. And I don’t know when I’ll be able to get a second post going.  I know it’s been years since my last post. Life sort of got in the way. There was the year where I didn’t have my own kitchen, then we bought a house and spent several months updating and making it our own. Then we had a baby. He’s super cute. You get the point. Busy people, etc.

So this isn’t a real blog post, it’s just my dinner last night and when I finished making it I thought, “damn that looks too pretty not to take a picture of it and if I’m going to take a picture of it maybe I should write about it.” It’s just a quick at-home version of Chiptole’s burrito bowls. The best part, for me, of this dinner was that we grew the bell pepper, jalapenos and tomatoes in our garden. For the first time in years of gardening all of our plants are producing like crazy. It’s definitely making up for the years we spent at the community garden, filling a water barrel with a hose hooked up to a fire hydrant down the block and never getting any good tomatoes because squirrels, mice and humans would steal them.

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Anyway, honestly I don’t know if I’ve actually written this post already. I might have but I don’t have time to go back and check and hey, even if I did, it was years ago. You could probably use a refresher on burrito bowls, right? They’re really complicated. At the very least, here are some pictures of my dinner. PS I hope you like cell phone pictures!

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Burrito Bowls

1 cup long grain brown rice

two chicken breasts – already cooked is best

1/4 onion

two fresh jalapeños

1 red bell pepper

cherry/grape tomatoes

shredded cheese

greek yogurt

Boil your rice and once it’s mostly cooked add some chopped onion. I find this gives some good flavor while easing the bite of the onion. While the rice is boiling, get your meat ready. I used leftover chicken breast from a previous dinner. Just gently shred it, toss it into a microwavable dish with a cover, add two fresh jalapeños, thinly sliced, some chili powder a little salt pepper and garlic and enough water so the chicken is covered about halfway. Microwave for six minutes stiring once halfway through. Make sure you take the seeds out of the jalapeños or you’ll probably burn your mouth off.

Chop the pepper and slice it the cherry tomatoes in half. That’s it for cooking, once the rice and chicken are done just build your bowl. A layer of rice, a layer of chicken, top with some cheese sprinkle on your red bell pepper and your tomatoes, and finally top with a little scoop of Greek yogurt. Done.


Roasted Corn and Tomato Spaghetti


I have to be honest. I don’t create many fusion dishes. I’m not sure I have the expertise of any one genre so firmly under my control that I feel able to mash two of them up together. Before this recipe, I’d never tried it at all. That I can remember. And no, using spaghetti noodles in ramen instead of Udon noodles doesn’t count.

This was very much an attempt to use up fresh produce without it going bad and without getting bored of the same flavor combinations. While I could possibly eat nothing but tomatoes and basil all summer long, I fear that Señor may crave more diversity than that. Actually, I could probably convince him to eat just tomatoes and basil for a week or two. But still. That’s not very well-balanced now is it?

We both love Mexican food, thus our taco bar wedding reception. That taco bar was delicious and friends have told me they’re still dreaming about the amazing food. For real, she just said it this weekend. I wouldn’t lie about something so serious. And in all honesty, we are STILL eating through the leftovers. We had a small guest list and we had 20 percent of our responded guests not show. So we had a ton of leftovers. We’re almost done with them but the overwhelming amount of taco meat, tortilla shells and refried beans in our freezer definitely affected our desire to make tacos.

This recipe was my best attempt at bringing delicious Mexican food back into our lives without it looking or tasting anything like the beef, chicken, beans and rice in our freezer. It totally worked. In the heat of summer, I used canned beans instead of boiling my own. I didn’t have to plan this recipe in advance, I just dumped everything together and off we went. The corn had been roasted on the grill a few days earlier and was caramelized and smoky. The cilantro and basil were both about to turn. And thankfully, tomatoes are a staple of both cuisines. Which is maybe why I love them both so much? Or maybe that’s unrelated and it’s just that they’re awesome. That’s probably more likely.

In this dish, roasted grape tomatoes make most of the ‘sauce’ that covers the noodles, beans, corn and herbs. In the effort of full disclosure, this was delicious as a hot main dish and the a cold lunch the next day. This is also a super easy recipe to feed a bunch of dietary restrictions. Gluten free? Swap out the whole wheat noodles for brown rice noodles. Vegan or lactose intolerant? Skip the cheese topping. Delicious and versatile. I love that.


Roasted Corn and Tomato Spaghetti
(makes four servings)

8 oz whole wheat spaghetti noodles

20-30 grape tomatoes

2 cobs roasted corn (approximately 1 cup of kernels)

1 can black beans

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon granulated garlic

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Dash of salt, black pepper, cayenne

Fresh cilantro

Fresh basil

1/2 cup shredded cheese

Heat oven or toaster oven to 400 degrees. Be sure to let the noodles drain for a few minutes before tossing them with the dish to keep excess water from creating a soupy dish.

Prepare the noodles according to package directions.

While the water is heating, place the tomatoes in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place in the oven or toaster oven for roasting. I prefer the toaster oven because the tomatoes sit closer to the heating element and finish roasting much faster. The tomatoes are ready when the skins are shriveling and there is some liquid on the foil.

Using a sharp knife, cut the kernels off the cobs of corn.

Drain the beans and rinse well. Let drain for five minutes to remove any excess liquids.

Place six ounces of water in a glass measuring cup. Add the chili powder, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper and cayenne. Stir and microwave the mixture for 45 seconds.

Add the olive oil to a large skillet. Heat on medium. Add the water and spice mixture. Toss the black beans and corn in the skillet until the spices are fragrant. Add the noodles and roasted tomatoes to the skillet and gently toss to incorporate. Adjust spices as necessary.

Tear whole cilantro and basil leaves off a clean bunch of each herb. When the pasta is just about ready to serve, remove from heat and toss a handful of both cilantro and basil with the dish.

Serve immediately; garnish with fresh cilantro, basil and shredded cheese.


Stuffed Zucchini


Mom, make this for dinner. You will like this one, I promise.

Summer and even early fall are a time for eating ripe tomatoes straight out of your garden. If we’re very, very lucky, we have so many tomatoes that we honestly don’t know what to do with them all. Last week I made salsa. This week I made stuffed zucchini. I’ve made this dish twice now and I think it has earned a place on the permanent rotation. It’s easy, cheap, and screams summer. As I sit worrying about frost and gardening death it puts a smile on my face, just knowing that the heart of this dinner was fresh out of my garden. All of the tomatoes came from my own garden. The zucchini came from Mom and Dad’s garden.

One of my most beloved summer lunches/snacks/meals is toasted tomato/cheese sandwiches. This dinner is a nod to the glorious nature that is the perfecting blending of melted cheese and fresh, juicy tomatoes. Stuffing the whole shebang into a zucchini is a great way to use cherry tomatoes when you have an over-abundance. The pictures you see here use whole-wheat bread crumbs which are okay, but not my favorite for this. They tend to resist the juices and don’t get soft enough. If you use whole wheat, add a 1/4 cup of water to the stuffing mixture. You want the stuffing to be soft and squishy before you bake it, not dry and crumbly. You can use any cheese you want.

The pictures make it look like it’s going to taste a bit like pizza but it doesn’t. It’s that fresh tomato taste that stars in this show. No zesty pizza herbs and spices necessary. Save those for winter when you’ll have to get your tomatoes out of a can.


Stuffed Zucchini

1 medium-large zucchini

30-50 small cherry tomatoes, halved

3/4 cup shredded cheese

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1 small can of very low sodium tuna (optional)

Heat the oven to 400º. Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scrape out the seed of the zucchini like you would a pumpkin. Use the spoon to scrap the zucchini into a ‘boat’. Discard the seeds and scrapings, or if you’re crafty, save them for something else.

Place the zucchini face down on the oven rack for 20 minutes. While it cooks, prepare the filling.

In a large bowl combine the tomatoes, breadcrumbs, and 1/3 of the cheese. Stir together until well mixed. If you want, add the tuna now as well. The tuna isn’t really necessary, but is nice if you’re looking to add some protein. It balances well with the tomatoes and doesn’t overwhelm the flavor at all.

If the mixture is looking a bit dry, add a few tablespoons of water. It should easily form a ball in your hand.

Remove the zucchini from the oven using tongs. Place them right-side-up in a 9×13 baking dish. Spoon the mixture into the boats, pressing it into place and creating a flat top.

Top each stuffed zucchini half with the remaining shredded cheese. Bake for 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and the mixture is hot throughout.

Serve with chopped pineapple and relish the last few days of summer.


Black Bean Corn and Chipotle Salsa


I hate the end of summer. Hate, hate, hate. I was deliriously happy to discover that we hit a 5-day 80-degree or higher heat wave post labor-day. I swam in my sisters pool. I wore flip flops and short sleeves after dark. I relished the lingering warmth. It’s all about to leave forever (until next June) and I am clinging to every moment of sunshine and warmth that I can. Next June I will marry Senor and that is SO exciting. Still, I’d rather not rush into fall and winter. Fall is okay. Winter is wretched.

Despite my loathing of cooler weather there are a few pluses that I’m trying to focus on. One is that cooler evenings are better for sleeping. Another is the bountiful harvest that fall brings. The market this weekend was overrun with bushels of tomatoes, peppers and beans. Boxes full of giant zucchini for $1 were stacked under tables. Potatoes, cabbages, summer squash, eggplant, onions, greens and even a few fall squash lined tables. The ears of sweet corn are everywhere and every single table was overflowing with produce. I wanted to buy some of everything just because it’s there and it’s locally grown and so, so soon, it’ll all be gone.

This time of year does get me excited for canning. Salsa is on the list again this year and even though it’s a lot of work, it’s also a lot of fun and so damn delicious. I would like to make pickles (hint, hint Mom!) and maybe do freezer green beans? It may end up just being salsa and that’s okay. We’re eating our last jar of last year’s batch this week so the time has definitely come.

I thought I would ease myself into the swing of salsa-making by whipping up a fresh batch with the bountiful harvest I had at my disposal. Our cherry tomato tree went crazy and we had dozens of tomatoes that were about to be too ripe. We also had three leftover ears of oven-roasted corn in the fridge. Seemed like a no-brainer right? I also had dried chipotles on hand, so chipotle salsa it became. I just bought a giant bag of fresh jalapenos and fully plan to make another fresh salsa with those. Yum!

Black Bean and Corn Chipotle Salsa

30-40 cherry tomatoes, halved

1 standard tomato, chopped into cubes

1 cup cooked and rinsed black beans

3 ears or about 1 cup of corn

2 dried chipotle peppers

1 small lime

1 large bunch cilantro, finely diced

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Combine the tomatoes, beans, corn and cilantro in a large bowl and mix well.

Sprinkle on the sea salt and toss.

Squeeze the lime over the entire mixture and mix again to incorporate.

Chop the chipotles into extremely fine pieces. Use a hand chopper to get the peppers pulverized to tiny pieces. Add to the salsa and mix extremely well.

Serve immediately. Store any unused salsa in the refrigerator and eat within a few days.


Grilled Pineapple and Balsamic Chicken over Cliantro-Lime Rice

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I don’t know about you guys, but I am ready for summer. Like NOW. Last week was glorious here. As glorious as weather in Minnesota in March can be. Temperatures in the 50s. The 50s! The snow was literally gone in all but the shadiest places. The snow mountains in the parking lots were actually so short you could see over them! Amazing right? Well it snowed 6 inches on Tuesday and it hasn’t been above freezing since, so back into the winter boots we go. 😦

But last week, when it was warm and sunny and I was full of positive spring energy I decided to go spring-feverish and welcome spring with open arms. Our dinner had this:



and I got to use this for the first time!



Isn’t it beautiful? Let’s see it again.


Even my grill pan is summery! 

And in action:

It seems like everything we eat in summer is so fresh and light and…tangy, you know? Well, except for steak which is not light but is delicious. I knew I wanted to use a lot of fresh flavors and I knew that the numero uno requirement of this dinner was going to be pineapple. I love pineapple. It’s by far my favorite fruit. I’ve been buying whole pineapples and thanks to the genius pineapple peeler/corer that I bought from Pampered Chef, cleaning pineapples is now one of the easiest things ever. Seriously, check this thing out. I use it on apples too.

Grill pan+chicken+pineapple=grilled chicken and grilled pineapple. It’s really just simple addition. Toss in some cilantro-lime rice and top it off with a balsamic reduction glaze and you have a party. Yes, literally, a party. On a plate. Or in your tummy.

 


Grilled pineapple and balsamic chicken over cilantro-lime rice Serves 2

1/2 cup dry basmati rice

1 lime

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves

1 pineapple, cored and cut into slices

14oz chicken breast tenders (one package)

1/2 cup cooked and drained black beans

1 cup balsamic vinegar

Nonstick spray (I used olive oil but you may use Pam as well)

Kosher salt 

Rinse and drain your rice well. The best way to avoid rice that sticks and clumps is to rinse it before cooking really well. This removes the extra starch. We buy our rice in a 15lb bag from India and it lasts us for years, so it’s a good practice to rinse it. You never know what penetrates the burlap sack. Cook your rice until tender, and allow to cool.

While the rice is cooking, spray a grill pan (or a regular skillet) with olive oil. Add chicken tenders and cook over a medium flame. Turn halfway through so both sides get grill marks.

Using a small sauce pan on a back burner, measure out a cup of balsamic vinegar. Feel free to use more, the balsamic glaze is delicious and in my opinion, the more the better! Bring the vinegar to a boil and let simmer until it’s reduced by half. Remove from the heat and let stand for at least five minutes. The glaze will thicken a bit upon standing.
 

Once you have all three burners going, whip out your pineapple, lime and cilantro. Clean the pineapple into slices are either rings or half of a ring, about a half-inch thick. Slice the lime in half and juice it. Tear the cilantro leaves off the stems until you have as much cilantro as you can handle. Personally, I could handle a having an equal rice-to-cilantro ratio but Senor isn’t quite as insane about cilantro as I am. I may have issues.

Get your black beans ready by either cracking open a can and rinsing them, or if your like me, breaking a chunk of frozen, cooked beans out of the freezer. Pop them in the microwave for a minute until they’re toasty warm. Remove the cooked chicken from the pan and set on a small plate. Keep both the chicken and the beans in the microwave until you’re ready to use them. If you need to reheat, just give them a quick 15 seconds.

Sprinkle your rice with a pinch of kosher salt, then add your lime juice and fresh cilantro. Stir and set aside until ready to serve.

Finally, add your sliced pineapple to the grill pan. You can crank the heat up if you’d like and cook on each side until dark grill marks appear and your pineapple is warmed through.

Serve each plate with the rice, topped with the beans, topped with the chicken. Drizzle the balsamic glaze over all three, concentrating on the chicken. Top the chicken with the freshly grilled pineapple. 

Eat and enjoy! And try to picture warm beaches, late night sunsets, and gentle summer breezes as you eat.  


Disclaimer: after I took this picture, I added about five more pineapple slices to my plate. They’re SO GOOD. 


>The Rainy Day Fund

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Sunset over the lake

Senor and I have attended 5 weddings since September 2009. We have one more in August and then we have a break.. As in, I don’t know any more girls who are engaged and there are no weddings currently being planed that I know of. I love weddings and I obsess about wedding planning all the time. That’s just the sort of a girl I am. That being said, I am relieved this year of excess is almost over!

We’ve traveled to Michigan, Indiana, southern Minnesota, and now Maine for weddings this year and I traveled to NYC for a bachlorette party as well. That’s a lot of traveling for someone who was laid off (me!) and someone who is a full-time student with a part-time job (Senor!). Senor and I love to travel (mostly abroad) and the past few years with the economy and such we haven’t been able to. This year we couldn’t because wedding expenses literally have sucked us dry. It’s too bad we don’t all get married at 45 when everyone is established and student loans are paid off and you don’t always have to worry about getting to and from remote locations for the fewest dollars possible. What a feeling that would be!

This year we’ve loaded up our rainy day fund in order to pay for the trips to Indiana and Maine We’re using the Maine wedding as an excuse to visit Boston and we have a friend and free lodging in NYC. A week-long vacation seems necessary considering the costs of flying to and from Boston!

Still, I’m a little sad that our annual fishing trip can’t happen. Every year for Senor’s birthday in August we rent a cabin in northwestern Minnesota on a lake. We spend a few days fishing for sunfish and bass (and one terrifying muskee), swimming off the dock, grilling our dinner and ending each night with a campfire. I’m not a huge nature person but I love all bodies of water, boats, swimming and fishing. Our rainy day fund was actually started as a way to fund that annual trip so it seems wrong that we’re ditching our little orange cabin and our little aluminum fishing boat this year. Our fishing trip is really the only time we truly have for just us with no distractions. We leave the dogs with Nonnie and Papi, pack up Gita (my car) and drive 3+ hours to a beautiful, peaceful place with no internet, no television, and no obligations. Senor doesn’t have to wake up at 4am to get to work and I don’t have to work 9 hours before coming home to make dinner. The best part is, we take out our little boat to the ‘best spots’ on the lake, cast our lines and wait for the fish to bite. We have a cooler of soda and water, sunflower seeds, and pb&j sandwiches. We listen to NPR from the cooler’s radio and talk about whatever comes to mind. When it’s time to go in, I beg for just one more cast for 30 minutes. It’s one of those vacations where you don’t feel guilty if you’re not out of bed at 8am in order to see all the sights and jam as much into the day as you can. You’re not missing out on anything if you’re not out partying until 4am and you can wear a swimsuit the entire day and no one will think you’re crazy.

Alas, the wedding in Maine is the weekend after Senor’s birthday and we have neither the money nor the vacation time for two trips in two weeks. We are very excited about going to Boston and we love NYC and it will be wonderful to be at the wedding and see our friends. If only it could have been in October! I think we’ll be making a reservation for our little cabin in December this year, just to make sure we don’t miss out.

We wouldn’t have wanted to miss any of the weddings we attended this year and we’re really glad that we were included and were able to share the day with the amazing couples we know. I’m glad it’s only one year though and that I was never in a sorority and I don’t have 30 bffs because I’m not sure I could handle a year like this one again!