Easy enchiladas

Now that we have two kids, it’s even harder to find time to cook weeknight dinners, so we’ve had to find recipes that come together really quickly. And we’re finding that the secret is tacos! Actually, any kind of variation on a meat that you can put on corn tortillas, so we’ve had a lot of enchiladas, too.

I’ve been making this recipe for green chile enchiladas with the leftovers from a roast chicken — something we also have a lot because it’s easy.

You take all the meat that’s left on the chicken and shred it. I would say it’s about 2 cups.

Then saute some sliced onions and mix it with the chicken. Then you add about half a jar of roasted salsa verde (I really like the Archer Farms version from Target).

That’s your filling. Roll it up inside corn tortillas, adding a little shredded Monterrey Jack cheese to each one.

Spread some salsa verde in the bottom of your baking dish, then add the enchiladas. Pour a little more salsa verde on top and sprinkle with a little more cheese.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and you’re done!

You can also make a sort of free-form enchilada casserole by layering tortillas with salsa verde and whatever other toppings you like. I made this one with black beans, sweet potatoes, and then some crema and feta cheese on top.

On the taco front, we’ve made a lot of crock pot shredded pork, which is great with pickled red onions.

Or, you can saute some pork tenderloin slices and then cut them up into chunks to put on tacos (hat tip to Real Simple for this one). I made some with pineapple, and they were so good! Super easy because the thin pork slices only take a few minutes to cook.

When all else fails, we just hit up the neighborhood taco trucks. Their al pastor is so good!

Butter shrimp

I never knew the magic of butter chicken until we moved to a place that has a Nepalese restaurant on every corner. I’m not sure the connection, but we have a LOT of Indian/Nepalese restaurants in our area, and they are wonderful. Have you had momos, those little meat or veggie-filled dumplings? Sooo good. Anyway, I tried the butter chicken at Taste of the Himalayas (my fave) and was totally hooked. So when I saw Posie had posted a recipe for butter shrimp, I wanted to try making that at home. 

I didn’t have tandoori paste, so I tried making it myself and it was super easy. I was thinking you could put that in a lot of things to add major flavor. 

The brilliant colors of all those spices remind me that I need to cook with them more often. 

I think I only used 1 pound of shrimp instead of two. It was frozen in a bag so I thawed it in some water first. 

Anything with this much butter has to be good!

I skipped the sliced almond garnish but I definitely added peas. Overall, I was happy with how quickly this dish came together. I think the sauce is even better than the chicken tikka masala recipe I had been making before, so I might just go with this one from now on. 

Sweet potato hash

There is this really great breakfast place near us called Sam’s Log Cabin that serves the most delicious vegan hash with sweet potatoes, carrots and greens. I tried it on a whim one time and was pleasantly surprised by how rich and filling it was. So, I really wanted to try making it at home. The other day I saw someone making sweet potato hash on a cooking show and I was like, OK, I’m doin’ it!

I, of course, thought it would be better with bacon. Similar to Smitten Kitchen’s bacon corn hash, I thought the bacon fat could be used instead of butter to cook the vegetables. So here is what I came up with:

Sweet potato hash
Serves 4
Top with an egg for the perfect breakfast or brunch meal.
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Ingredients
  1. 4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
  2. 2 large yams, peeled and chopped
  3. 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  4. 1/2 yellow onion, sliced
  5. 2 handfuls arugula or other fresh greens
  6. 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  7. 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  8. Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until it is starting to get crispy but not completely done.
  2. Add the yams, carrots, and onions and cover the pan with a lid. Continue cooking over medium heat, stirring occasionally to make sure the vegetables aren't sticking to the pan.
  3. Season with paprika, cumin, salt and pepper. When the sweet potatoes and carrots are nice and soft, add the arugula and stir to combine. Turn off the heat.
  4. If you like, top with a fried egg and serve.
Notes
  1. *To make the hash vegetarian or vegan, substitute 3 tablespoons of butter or olive oil for the bacon.
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/
I like to put a runny fried egg (or eggs) on top of my hash. I just think it’s the perfect combination. I’ve also seen a recipe where you spread the hash out in a 9×13 pan, crack a few eggs on top and then bake them. That sounds pretty great, too.

My first time making gumbo (and corned beef)

I used to be a pretty voracious blog reader, but lately my Feedly has been skimmed to a select few blogs I occasionally have time to read. I keep reading them, though, because I realized that even though that time is precious, it is mine. And I really like discovering new recipes, new crafts, and whatever else I find there. It’s kind of nice, actually, to have culled a giant mess of posts down to the ones I truly care about and will get something from. 

So, that is how I found this recipe for chicken and sausage gumbo from one of my long-time favorite reads, Iowa Girl Eats. Check out her post for pictures of all the steps. I was kind of intimidated to try gumbo, but it was not hard at all. And it turned out so well! We all wanted to lick our bowls after dinner. 

Changes I made (of course): I used chicken breasts cut into chunks instead of thighs so I wouldn’t have to shred it after it cooked. And I realized mid-week that I was out of tomato paste, so I just squeezed in a little ketchup and that seemed to work. Sometimes you gotta be MacGyver in the kitchen! 

For St. Patrick’s Day I also tackled a new-to-me meal — corned beef and cabbage. I used Martha’s recipe, which is not so much a recipe as an instruction to throw everything in the Crock Pot and let it cook all day.

I was surprised that it made a clear broth rather than a gravy after all that time, but the meat turned out perfectly and the veggies were good, too. I had so many left over that I ended up roasting them in the oven with a baked chicken yesterday and they were even better. 

Homemade pastry pups

We made these for New Years and the Superbowl and they were SO GOOD. They’re basically just a homemade version of Trader Joe’s Pastry Pups. Which are like a fancied up version of a pig in a blanket.

I always liked the way they used puff pastry instead of plain bread. So I thought, why not just roll up some ‘lil smokies in a puff pastry sheet and call it good?

So basically all you do is thaw 2 sheets of frozen puff pastry dough and then unfold them (one at a time) on a cookie sheet. At this point you have the dough kind of naturally divided into thirds. So just cut along those folds so you have 3 pieces. then cut those in half to get six. Then cut diagonally across each piece to get 12 triangles.

No need to spring for any kind of fancy dog. These store-brand ones were great.

Then roll up a dog in each piece of dough and place them a couple inches apart on the cookie sheet. (You could sprinkle them with a little parmesan cheese here, although I didn’t and I don’t think they need it.)

I think I baked them at 400 degrees for about 10-12 minutes. But just check on them periodically and take them out when the dough is puffed up and starting to brown. 

They are so yummy dipped in a little mustard.

Make both sheets because 12 will not last very long at all. Trust me.

3-bean chili, the meat version

I still really love my vegetarian chili recipe, but lately we’ve been eating a meaty version of it, and it’s great, too. For the meat version, I added ground beef, but left out some of the veggies, herbs and chipotle chiles.

So it’s basically a simplified version that’s a little less spicy. Although, you could certainly add the chiles for extra heat or add the veggies to make it healthier. It’s a very adaptable recipe.

We always have our chili with a little bit of cheddar cheese and saltine crackers. These little ones are still my favorite. 

3-bean and beef chili
Serves 8
Hearty chili for cold nights.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 pound ground beef
  2. 1 small (or half large) onion, chopped
  3. 1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
  4. 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  5. 15-ounce can black beans, drained
  6. 15-ounce can dark red kidney beans, drained
  7. 15-ounce can chili beans
  8. 1 tablespoon chili powder
  9. 1 teaspoon cumin
  10. 1 teaspoon salt
  11. Shredded cheddar cheese and saltine crackers (optional)
Instructions
  1. Heat a large soup pot or dutch oven over medium and add the ground beef, onions and green peppers. Cook until the beef browns and the onions are translucent.
  2. Stir in the chili powder, cumin and salt.
  3. Add the tomatoes and all the beans and stir really well. Place a lid on the pot and heat the mixture until it's bubbling.
  4. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring often.
  5. Serve with shredded cheese and crackers.
Notes
  1. If you like your chili spicy, add one chipotle chili in adobo sauce with the tomatoes and beans.
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/

Easy chicken gyros and tzatziki sauce

I picked up this recipe from the Say Yes blog a few months ago and it has become a staple in our house. It couldn’t be easier to throw together these gyros on a weekend night when you don’t have a lot of time to cook. Just put the chicken in a bag to marinate while you do a few other things and then saute up the meat. 

Go here for the full recipe.

We have just a few cherry tomatoes growing in our back yard (when Harper doesn’t pick off all the green ones) and they work great as a topping. 

Any kind of pita, lavash, or pocket bread will do. 

You can whip up tzatziki sauce in just a few minutes. Here’s my recipe:

1/2 cup Greek yogurt
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
1/2 teaspoon salt

Taste it and see if it needs a little more of anything. It’s not a terribly precise recipe. 

When your chicken and onions are just starting to brown, they’re done. Put everything together and dinner’s ready. 

Chicken wild rice soup

My mother-in-law made this soup over Christmas and it was so good we decided we had to make it when we got back here. The recipe comes from the Pie Place, the sweet restaurant in Grand Marais, Minnesota where we had our rehearsal dinner 3 years ago. While we were in Duluth last month we picked up some hand-harvested wild rice. It’s hard to find in other places, so you have to get it while you can. Though regular wild rice works just fine in this recipe.

We decided to bulk up the soup with some chicken, carrots and leeks, and it was wonderful. It’s creamy, but not too thick or gloppy. The wine and sherry really makes the flavor. Try it!

Chicken wild rice soup
Soothing winter soup with a hint of white wine and sherry.
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Ingredients
  1. 6 tablespoons butter
  2. 1 small onion, chopped
  3. 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  4. 3 leeks, thoroughly rinsed and trimmed, then chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  5. 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
  6. 1/4 cup flour
  7. 4 cups chicken broth (homemade stock, if you have it)
  8. 1 cup heavy cream
  9. 1/4 cup white wine
  10. 2 tablespoons sherry
  11. 2 cups cooked wild rice
  12. 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  13. Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. If your wild rice is not already cooked, boil it while you prep the other ingredients.
  2. Melt the butter in a large soup pot and add the onions, carrots, leeks, and chicken breasts. Season with salt and pepper and saute, turning the chicken once, until both sides are lightly browned and the chicken is cooked through.
  3. Remove the chicken to a plate and let it cool before shredding it with 2 forks.
  4. Meanwhile, add the flour to the pot and stir until the veggies are coated. Add the chicken broth and whisk until smooth. Add the cream and sherry and bring the pot to a simmer.
  5. Now you can add back the chicken and the cooked wild rice. Stir in the cheese.
  6. When the soup is heated through, it's ready to go. Season with more salt and pepper before you serve it.
Notes
  1. • Leave out the chicken and sub veggie broth for a vegetarian version.
  2. • Leftover turkey from a holiday meal works great in place of the chicken.
  3. • If you don't have leeks, just leave them out.
  4. • Rinse chopped leeks in a bowl of water before you cook with them. The dirt will fall to the bottom.
Adapted from The Pie Place Cafe Cookbook
Adapted from The Pie Place Cafe Cookbook
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/

Our first time making sausage

How is this for adventures in cooking — we made our own sausage links. Inspired by the currywurst we ate in LA, we decided to make that with a curry ketchup sauce. 

As I suspected, making your own sausage is the kind of thing we don’t do very often because it is a pretty involved process.

First you run your meat (pork butt, in our case) through a grinder. We used the grinder attachment for our KitchenAid mixer. I think we actually ran it through twice, with the finer plate the second time.


Not surprisingly, Sadie was very interested in this.


Raw meat everywhere, gah!

The currywurst is supposed to be really fine, like a hot dog. So you actually take the ground meat, mix in some other ingredients, and then run it through the food processor.

Then you’re ready to actually stuff the sausage. For that you need the sausage stuffer attachment. You also need casings, which we got at the Local Butcher Shop in Berkeley. Did I mention you also have to pre-soak those, changing the water halfway through, then put water through them so they puff out?

Mike did the actual stuffing while I pushed the flavored meat through the grinder. There was no way for it not to look ridiculous, so of course we laughed a lot. But he said it wasn’t too hard to get it inside the casings and twist it into links.

We sauteed the links in a cast iron skillet while we cooked the currywurst sauce, which also had many steps.

By this point I was like, let’s just eat the f***ing things! But we were rewarded in the end. I thought both the sausage and the sauce were really tasty. We had tons left over, so we’ll be eating currywurst again. Which is good, because I don’t know when we’ll have the patience to make it next.


Toothpicks required for authenticity.

Here are the recipes we used: sausage and currywurst sauce

Enchiladas verdes

I get my fair share of daytime TV watching now that I’m home with Harper, and that’s how I discovered Pati Jinich and her fabulous Mexican recipes (I think on The Chew). I decided to try her enchiladas verdes, which both sounded really good and allowed me to try some new ingredients like tomatillos and Mexican crema. 


Isn’t that color gorgeous?

Her recipes always look really yummy and she seems like a genuinely nice person. Can’t say that about all TV chefs…

So, I tried the enchiladas and they were fantastic. The main reason was the tomatillo sauce. It was super easy to make, and it had this wonderfully tangy, sweet flavor. You could put that on a piece of cardboard and it would taste good. 

We had leftovers from a homemade roast chicken, so I think that helped, too. 

I had never tried “passing the tortillas through oil” to get them nice and soft, but it totally worked. 

The only thing I changed was to add a little bit of the queso fresco and tomatillo sauce to the chicken before I rolled it up. I was afraid it would be too dry otherwise. And next time I think I would leave the raw onion off the top. But otherwise, this is a great recipe I can highly recommend. 

Another bonus: I learned that I really like Mexican crema in place of sour cream. It’s just a little bit thinner. I actually used some to make ranch dressing and it turned out perfectly. Cool!