Tag Archives: Dinner

Taco Rap!

If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, you’ve probably seen some pictures of my baby nephew. You may have heard that his oldest sibling, my fabulous niece, designs my headers and solves my technological dilemmas. But today, we’re here to talk about my other nephew (the middle child), and the results of some dinner inspiration I received from one of his Play-Doh art projects.

This is my nephew, Will. He is a champion big brother, an aspiring alto-saxophonist, and a smart cookie.

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He is also, apparently, a sculptor and/or aspiring restauranteur. I found this plate of Play-Doh goodies in our pantry the other day, complete with price tags.

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I’m not sure how long it has been there, but I hope these hot deals are still available.

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I think the “Brat Semi” is like a bratwurst, but just half of it. For the calorie-conscious. I do not eat wursts of any sort, but you gotta admit that’s a nice price.

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The peas are a little more expensive, but they are world famous, and probably organic, too.

Here’s the one that really intrigued me:

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Doesn’t a taco rap sound good?? I thought about writing a rap about tacos and performing it via video post, but ultimately decided against that (because I know my own limits). Instead, I made a slightly healthier version of the taco salad my mom always used to make, and then I put it in a tortilla. This is not an exact recipe–it’s more like a series of suggestions–but here’s the gist of what went into this delicious creation.

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First, I made some dressing. The taco salad of my youth had a dressing made of equal parts mayonnaise and Western dressing, with a liberal sprinkling of chili powder. I swapped out the mayo for some blended raw cashews (sooooo creamy and delish), and added a little lime juice for pizzazz. The measurements:

  • 1/2 c. raw cashews (I think they’re easier to blend if you soak them in water for a few hours first and drain before using, but it’s not a necessity)
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1/4 c. Western dressing
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder

Put all of the above in a blender and let it run until completely smooth. (This may take awhile because of the cashews, and you will need to stop a few times and scrape down the sides of the blender.) Add a bit more water if you want to thin it out.

I also made taco-seasoned tempeh, to replace the ground beef in my mom’s old recipe. I don’t eat a lot of tempeh, but occasionally I use it in things that would typically have some sort of ground meat in them. The texture is similar. I crumbled an 8 oz. package of tempeh, and browned it in a skillet with a little olive oil for about 10 minutes, adding the following seasonings as it cooked:

  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • about 1/8 tsp salt
  • a few dashes of cayenne pepper

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I spread a healthy dollop of the dressing on a tortilla, sprinkled on some of the tempeh, and topped it off with lettuce, bell pepper, tomato, and chopped scallions. Oh, and Doritos. Do NOT forget the Doritos–they are the key to success.

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That’s it for today, comrades. If you want to write a rap about tacos and leave it in the comments, that would be super cool. Bye for now!

(P.S. I’m really very sorry if you happened to get multiple notifications about this post via your email subscription–my blogging software is all screwed up. And my niece had to go and start 8th grade, so I have nobody competent here to assist me.)

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Funny vegetables

Hello, friends! I hope all is well where you are. I know things are usually all sunshine and lollipops around this blog, but I must admit that lately I’ve been feeling a little…..blaaaaaah. Studying for the bar exam isn’t exactly fun, and although I enjoy hanging out with my family here in Des Moines, I miss a lot of friends back in Iowa City. It’s just a weird, in-between kind of feeling. Plus, I caught a really gross cold and I haven’t been to Zumba in weeks. No, months! BAH!

This evening I decided to take some initiative, ignore the bar exam paced study schedule, and bolster my mood with two all-time favorites. First, my favorite movie:

“Funny Girl” speaks to my very soul. I’m about 85% sure I was Fanny Brice (comedienne portrayed by Barbra Streisand in the film) in a past life.  I submit for your consideration these comparison photos:

Uncanny, right? I would have chosen a better leading man than Fanny’s, though. Nick Arnstein is all flash and no substance. “I don’t like to make definite plans….it makes me feel too tied down.” PLEASE.  The movie really takes a dive after she marries him, but the first act is pure gold.

Anyway, while watching my favorite movie, I also made my favorite dinner. This is what I would have for my last meal, if I was forced to choose. (Then I would also make about 6 desserts.) Please note that all of these measurements will be approximate, because I’m not really into measuring, except when baking.

Red Curry Coconut Stir-fry with Basil-Lime Couscous (serves 6-ish)

For the stir-fry:

  • about 1 tbsp coconut oil (or vegetable or peanut oil)
  • 1 yellow squash, sliced into half-moons
  • 1 red pepper, julienned
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (heaping) tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1.5-2 tbsp red curry paste
  • 1 13.5 oz. can lite coconut milk
  • 1 c. peas, defrosted if using frozen
  • 1 c. sliced mushrooms
  • 4 scallions, sliced
  • coarsely chopped cashews to garnish

For the couscous:

  • 1 10 oz. box couscous
  • 2 c. water, vegetable stock, or a combination
  • 1 lime (zest and juice)
  • a small handful of basil leaves, sliced in thin ribbons

Couscous: In a small saucepan, bring the 2 cups of liquid and the lime zest to a boil. Pour in the couscous, remove from heat, cover, and let sit for about 5 minutes (check the package instructions for the amount of time–my box said 5 minutes). Remove the lid, juice the lime over the couscous, add the ribbons of basil, and fluff/mix the couscous with a fork.

Stir-fry: In a large frying pan, heat about one tablespoon of coconut oil over medium heat. When it’s melted, add the yellow squash, red pepper, garlic, and ginger. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes. Add the red curry paste and stir a bit to incorporate it with the vegetables. Then pour in the coconut milk, peas, and mushroom, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Check your veggies for your desired level of doneness (I like them to be a little crunchy when done). Add the scallions at the very end of cooking. Serve the stir-fry over a scoop of the couscous, sprinkled with a few chopped cashews.

I added a little leftover baked tofu on top at the last minute. A veggie-ful feast + a movie musical = a much better mood. As the song says, “Life’s candy and the sun’s a ball of butter.” Happy weekend, food fans!

P.S. Sorry the pictures are tiny.  I switched to a different blogging program and I have yet to really figure out how to use it.

Rice paper wrappers full of (r)awesome

Just a very quick installment today…

My friend Katie (she also happens to be my sister-in-law’s brother’s wife, but “friend” is simpler) has a holistic health coaching business and sends out a newsletter full of info about happy, healthy food and tasty recipes.  The business is called Rooted Wellbeing and you should really check out the website, mmmkay? It will inspire you when you feel like eating Doritos for dinner.

I tried her recipe for a raw Thai “peanut” sauce yesterday and I can already tell it is destined to become a staple in my fridge.  It would be great on a pasta salad, as a dip, in a wrap, etc.  Tonight I used it as a dipping sauce for some spring rolls.

Spring roll components: broiled tofu (using this recipe from Peas and Thank You), cooked rice noodles with a bit of the peanut sauce stirred in, veggies, and the rice paper wrappers.

These are very fun to make.  You need to soak the rice paper in a shallow dish of warm-ish water for about 20 seconds to make it pliable.  This reminded me of the scene in Grease when Sandy sings “Hopelessly Devoted to You” and wistfully floats a sheet of stationery in the pool in Frenchie’s backyard.  Anybody?  No?  OK, never mind.

Then you can fill them with whatever suits your fancy and you have a pretty little appetizer or light supper.  I didn’t follow any particular recipe for these rolls, but here’s one that looks good if you want a little food for thought.  My finished product:

These were pretty decent, but the star of the meal was definitely the dipping sauce—here’s the link with the recipe.  Make it, love it…..try to resist the temptation to just eat it straight with a spoon.

Have a happy Memorial Day weekend!  (I’ll be back with another post soon, because I bought tartlet pans today.  TARTLET PANS!  I can barely contain my excitement….)

Commencement, merriment, and avocados

Hey look—we got our law degrees!

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Somehow, in between all the cookie baking and general tomfoolery that made these past three years so wonderful, I got the job done.  And so did all of my brilliant, wonderful, hilarious classmates that I already miss like crazy now that I am moved out of my apartment and back in Des Moines, where I’ll be for the summer while studying for the bar exam.

I am excited about whatever will come next…..but I’m also a little sad.  I have always loved being a student, and law school was just so much fun.  Fortunately, we had all kinds of family over to my parents’ house tonight for a graduation barbecue, so I couldn’t spend too much time being nostalgic.  There was food prep to be done!  My brother who lives in Colorado is here, as is my cousin who lives in Florida, so it was an extra-special family fiesta.

My parents made lots and lots of delicious food, but my favorite was a new dish that I have dubbed “Avocados de los Abogados.”  (Two semesters of Spanish, thankyouverymuch.)  This is essentially a zippy little corn salad that you can throw together the day before, stuffed inside half of a lightly grilled avocado.  Yesterday, my dad grilled two ears of corn.  It was not grilling weather, but we’re brave.

Then he sliced the corn off the ears and mixed up the salad, while I took photos and offered moral support.

Tonight, while grilling various meat-stuffs for the carnivorous family members, he grilled the avocados for just long enough to soften them a bit and get those sexy grill marks.  Then I filled them with the corn salad, drizzled a little lime juice over the whole situation, and took this glamour shot:

We used 6 avocados, and the following ingredients for the corn salad (all measurements except the corn approximate):

  • 2 ears of grilled sweet corn
  • 1 c. quartered grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • pinch of cayenne pepper or chipotle powder
  • lime juice, squeezed over the filled avocado halves before serving

Tomorrow I am checking out of my cozy little Iowa City apartment.  It was a happy home for three years and I will miss it…..but I comfort myself with the thought that wherever I move next will have more counter space (to accommodate the KitchenAid stand mixer I dream of buying when someone actually hires me to do some lawyering).

Have a good week, everybody!  And—if you happen to be a member of the IA Law class of 2011…..CONGRATS!

Timeout with my tart pan

I have one more exam left.  But!  I have a decent amount of time to study beforehand so I decided to make a little drive today to my parents’ house to visit an old friend that I miss while I’m away at school:

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I found this book, and good things happened…..

I would indeed like to teach the world to sing, but I will settle for maybe teaching a few people how to make dinner.

I brought my tart pan with me on this mini-break, because I had plans to start cooking as soon as I got home.  When I arrived, I thought I was maybe too tired to get out the rolling pin and actually make a crust.  But don’t worry—the thought immediately following that one was “Don’t be a pansy—the day you’re ‘too tired’ to wield a rolling pin will be the day law school exams and/or the terrorists have won.”  I would never let that happen.

I checked out what was in the fridge, and set about making a sort of quiche/tart hybrid with caramelized onions, yellow squash, thyme, and parmesan.  For the crust component, I used this Ina Garten recipe, but used a couple tablespoons less butter (because that’s all I could find) and replaced 1/2 cup of the flour with whole wheat flour—I liked the extra texture and color from the whole wheat.

I sliced up two large onions and put them in a big skillet with a little bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Caramelizing onions takes about 40 minutes—or at least it did this time—but it’s no big deal because all you have to do is stir occasionally.  When they’re done, they’ll have decreased in volume by quite a bit, and they’ll be caramel-y colored and sweet.  Here’s a before-and-after comparison:

When the crust was mostly cooled off and ready to rock, I scattered the onion-y goodness over the bottom and then layered on some thinly-sliced yellow squash.

Then I whipped up the egg mixture, poured it over the veggies, and baked.  And the finished product was so lovely I took it outside in the backyard to photograph it in the natural light.  I really hope the neighbors saw me having an intimate photo shoot with my dinner.

Since this was kind of a thrown-together recipe, I’ll just list what I put in the filling and suggest you visit the link above for the crust recipe if you’re so inclined.  Here goes:

  • 2 large onions, sliced and caramelized (cook in a large skillet over medium-low heat for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally until golden brown and sweet)
  • 1 small yellow summer squash, sliced in thin rounds
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 c. milk (I used skim, but go with whatever you’ve got)
  • about 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • about 1/2 tsp fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper

Arrange the veggies in the cooled crust, whisk together the remaining ingredients and pour them in, and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. (Oh, I used a 10-inch tart pan.  That would be helpful to know, huh?)

I thought this was delicious, but it’s pretty filling, so I have a lot left.  If you want some dinner, just come on over and, you know…

Maple-soy marinated veggies

One more (very simple) recipe before spring break is over.  My brother and sister-in-law and their wonderful kiddos got back from spring break in Florida today, and we fired up the grill for the first time this spring.  Oh, by the way, do you want to see something adorable?  Check out baby nephew at Disneyworld:

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I made a marinade for grilled portabella mushrooms and asparagus using my tiny bottle of maple syrup from VT.  Ingredients:

  • 1/4 c. maple syrup
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce
  • 1/8 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 clove garlic

My mom bought one of those Magic Bullet things today and blended the ingredients in that, but you could also mince the clove of garlic and just whisk everything together.

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I used 2 portabella caps and one good-sized bunch of asparagus.  To prep the veggies, break the stems off the portabella caps and use a spoon to scrape out the black gills.  Chop off the bottom third or so of the asparagus spears and discard.  (The bottom is usually kind of tough.)

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Leave the asparagus long if you want to place it directly on the grill, or chop it into smaller pieces if you’re going to be using a grill pan.  Then put the portabellas and asparagus into a pan and pour the marinade over them.

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Put the pan in the fridge for a few hours, and stir every now and then to make sure every veggie gets a chance to soak up some flavor.  Then, fire up the grill.  Cook the mushroom caps for about five minutes on each side, and the asparagus until crisp-tender.

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I love grilling nights on the patio with my family!  The prospect of having many more this summer makes studying for the bar exam sound much less painful.

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Finished product:

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My dad grilled some meat for the carnivorous family members, so almost everybody was happy with the meal.  My older nephew, however, had to head to the pantry.  He only eats one thing:

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Have a great week!  It’s back to school for me.

Chili for Justice

Today was the annual Equal Justice Foundation Chili Cook-off at my home-away-from-home, the Boyd Law Building.  Because I am an ardent supporter of law students doing public interest work, as well as any event that allows me to bring a kitchen appliance to school, I made a batch of chili.

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Alas, it was not the winning entry, but it’s still good, I promise!  See—these ladies thought so:

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There was some excellent competition–check out this line-up:

When looking for a recipe to start from, I went straight to the ultimate online emporium of deliciousness, the Whole Foods website.  I used one of their veggie chili recipes for inspiration, but modified it because it involved eggplant, and I thought eggplant in chili sounded a little sketchy.  I used acorn squash instead—roasted at 400 for about 30 minutes.

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I drizzled it with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, put a bit of water in the bottom of the pan, and covered with foil before roasting.  Because that’s what my mom does, and that’s a good enough reason for anything, I think.

Saute  the onion, garlic, corn kernels, and jalapeno in a tablespoon or so of olive oil for about 5 minutes, and then add the spices.

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Then add the beans, tomatoes, and veggie stock and simmer until your chili intuition tells you you’re on the home stretch.  (I’d say I let it go for about 20 minutes.)  Add the acorn squash (just scrape it out of the skin and break it up in the chili as you stir) for the last 5-10 minutes of cooking.  Finally, add the lime zest and juice just before serving and stir.

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Acorn Chili

  • 1 c. frozen corn kernels, defrosted
  • 1 acorn squash, cut in half, seeds scraped out, and roasted until tender
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 of a large onion, diced (or one small)
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, diced (seeds and ribs included for spice)
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15 oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15 oz. can tomatoes (the fire-roasted kind are the best, I think)
  • 2 cups veggie stock/broth (add more towards the end if you’d like thinner chili)
  • zest and juice of one lime

Saute the onion, corn kernels, minced garlic, and jalapeno until softened and fragrant (5 minutes or so).  Add the spices and stir.  Next, add the beans, tomatoes, and veggie stock and simmer for 20-25 minutes.  Scoop the flesh of the roasted acorn squash into the chili and simmer for another 10 minutes, breaking up the squash as you stir.  Add the lime zest and juice just before serving.