Taco Tuesday!

We may be late to the game but we just started doing Taco Tuesdays. It’s so much fun. I remember making tacos for the kids when they were little so I’m glad to be back at it again.

My husband makes a great fresh guacamole. All you need to do is mix fresh mushed up avocados (we do this using the back of a fork), chopped tomatoes, minced onion and jalapeños, fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 1 tablespoon), salt & pepper in a bowl. I like the guac to be a little chunky, but it’s totally your preference. If you don’t know how to cut open an avocado, I found this good video here that you might want to check out. Also, a note of caution – we now use gloves when chopping the jalapeños, it’s a story I won’t share here…

Then we make the fillers…we eat shrimp, a lot of shrimp…so we sautéed some shrimp in a little EVOO with a bit of garlic and seasoning – and that’s it!

For toppings, I chopped up some lettuce, tomatoes, and some more jalapeño. Then of course there’s the obligatory shredded cheese, sour cream and hot sauce. We like the soft shell flour tacos, which I warm up for 30 seconds in the microwave before plating.

Get creative and have a fun Taco Tuesday!

Chicken Cutlets…

I’m not talking about a fashion accessory, I’m talking about actual chicken cutlets. It might sound boring but I love a simply breaded chicken cutlet with a green side dish and a little fresh Greek yogurt (or tzatziki) on the side.

For this plate I used egg dip and breadcrumbs and simply fried the breaded cutlets. (Let me know if you need details on this, it’s super easy!)

I had a side of broccoli rabe (which I steamed and blanched, then drizzled with EVOO, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes) and a bowl of cauliflower mashed “potatoes” .

Sometimes I make a tomato bruschetta (chopped cherry tomatoes, minced garlic, fresh chopped basil, salt, pepper and EVOO) and top the chicken cutlets with that and it’s great!

Slow and low Pernil…

Let me start by saying that I would probably not cook Pernil for any of my Latino friends, the same way they would probably not make Sunday sauce for me. That said, it came out delicious and was a rightful payment to my friend Dana who helped with a house project. I think the smell of it cooking in the oven kept her motivated and helped us get through it quickly!

Pernil is a a large, usually inexpensive, piece of pork labeled at the supermarket as “picnic shoulder”. It’s got a large layer of skin that crisps up as it cooks and keeps the meat tender and juicy.

To start I make a marinade of orange juice (3 cups), apple cider vinegar (1/4 cup) and olive oil (1/4 cup) and a ton of minced garlic, oregano, salt, pepper and fresh minced parsley. You want to make enough marinade so that at least half of the pork is covered (you’ll need to flip the pork over after a few hours so all sides get some loving). I usually marinate this over night turning a few times during the process. I’ve tried marinating it for just a few hours and it just wasn’t as good, it really needs to go overnight.

Now for the magic, using a sharp paring knife I stab several deep holes (while channeling a dark, serial killer persona) in the meat-not on the skin side-where I will place cloves of garlic deep inside to infuse the pork with flavor. Next, using a super sharp knife, I carefully cut long lines about 1 inch apart from each other across and through most of the fat layer (to the point where the skin meets the meat) and do the same on the bias to create a hatch pattern. (See pic below.)

I put this bad boy on a v-rack in my oven skin side down for two hours at 150 degrees. After two hours I flip it so the skin side is now facing up and cook for another two hours at 150 degrees. This piece of meat was about 5 pounds so you may need to adjust your cooking time depending on the size of pork you have. If you have a meat thermometer your inside temperature (which you take after the pork has rested outside of the oven for about 3-5 minutes) should be 145 degrees. (A useful meat temperature guide can be found here.) After resting I turn it over to hubby, who harnesses his inner caveman and carves this beauty up.

Nice side dishes are rice, salad, yucca, you name it!

Getting Greek…

The worst part of the lockdown was not being able to travel. We love Europe and all the different foods and flavors you find there. Greece was one our favorite trips. We spent time in Athens, Mykonos and Santorini (our hotel in Santorini was insane, check it out here).

Anyway, since we can’t be in Greece right now, we’re cooking up a simple Greek lunch. Souvlaki! This dish could not be easier. Many people like to use chicken thighs for this recipe, which are more flavorful but hubby only likes white meat so I use skinless, boneless breasts which I cube up. In a bowl I add about 2 cups of white wine, about 2 tablespoons of oregano, a tablespoon of EVOO and salt & pepper. Whisk this marinade well and then add the cubed chicken. You can marinate for an hour or as long as overnight. I then removed chicken from the marinade and put in shallow baking pan and baked in my oven for about 25 minutes (until there is no pink in the middle of the chicken).

I served the souvlaki with a salad, warm pita bread, fresh feta cheese (IMO Bulgarian goat feta is the best if you can find it.) and a side of freshly made tzatziki sauce. To make the tzatziki I use Greek Yogurt (I like the Fage brand, 0% fat) which I strain before using so it really thickens up. I add minced, peeled & seeded cucumber, garlic powder (fresh garlic is too strong, I’ve been told…) salt, pepper and a ton of fresh minced dill. Stir in all ingredients and let it set in a bowl in fridge for about 20 minutes).

You can make a sandwich with all of these yummy ingredients or if you’re on keto just plate it with the sides and no bread.

Let me know if you have questions!

Instant mood lifter…

There’s nothing better for the soul than a bowl of chicken soup. We’re down in Florida now and some will argue that it’s just too hot for soup. I say turn up the A/C and enjoy soup all year round.

I start with the trilogy (chopped celery-leafy tops included, carrots and onions) which I sauté in a large pot with a little EVOO. I season heavily with salt, pepper, thyme, tons of fresh dill and a packet of Sazon con Azafran (please don’t write me about color additives…) Once the veggies have sweated I plop in a whole cleaned chicken (as big as will fit in pot). Add water so the birdie is covered and season again with salt, pepper, thyme and yes, more dill. I cook this for about 90 minutes or until bird is cooked. Turn off heat and let cool a bit before removing the bird to debone (you can wrap the bird in cheesecloth before putting in pot for easier removal). One the bird has cooled enough to handle remove and toss any skin, bones and cartilage. Shred meat using a fork and return meat to soup. Turn heat on medium and let cook for another 20 minutes.

Plate soup over some cooked tubettini and serve with tons of fresh shredded parmesano, salt & pepper. I guarantee you will feel better just smelling the soup cook!

Pro-tip: My hubby likes potatoes in the soup sometimes instead of the pasta. To make with potatoes, add them about 45 minutes after starting the soup (so they don’t get too soft and fall apart). I use medium sized red potatoes which I cut in half and put in skin on.

Shrimp & Grits…sort of

One of the dishes I used to like to order when I was on the road was shrimp & grits. This was not a dish that I grew up with or one that I made, until recently (of course with my own spin on it).

To make my version of this dish I prepared some polenta (follow the instructions on the bag). I use chicken broth (or you can use vegetable broth) instead of water – this gives the polenta a richer flavor. When the polenta is nearly done cooking (remember to stir, stir, stir) I add about a tablespoon of mascarpone, which makes the polenta creamy and yummy. Remove from heat and prepare the shrimp.

In my wok (or sauté pan) I steam some fresh broccoli rabe for about 7 minutes (again I steam this in chicken broth, which removes some of the bitterness). Strain and refresh with cold water. Season with salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, drizzle with a little EVOO and set aside.

Now, back to your wok or sauté pan. Add a little EVOO, when warm add some fresh minced garlic and either fresh chopped onion or scallion and cook for about 3 minutes. Add fresh, cleaned shrimp and sauté until just pink. I usually have mint & basil growing on the patio, so I would mince some up and toss in towards the end of cooking.

Now to plate this baby. Spoon polenta on the plate, top with shrimp and a helping of the broccoli rabe. I garnished with fresh avocado. You can drizzle with EVOO and viola!

Pro-tip: you can use any type of protein and/or veggie for this dish. Chicken would be great or LOBSTER…broccoli or zucchini noodles would work too.

Cheese please…

15 Minute Meal!

Hubby is away so I am going crazy with putting cheese in everything!

Last night was a quick orecchiette, with sautéed spinach, tons of crushed garlic cloves and red Argentinian shrimp from Trader Joes (sometimes I just don’t feel like going to the fish monger, and these tasty, frozen shrimp are a great Plan B). First get your salted water boiling for the pasta. While this is happening sauté fresh crushed garlic and the shrimp in a little EVOO until shrimp are mostly cooked, then add spinach until cook until wilted (use a large sauté pan as you’ll add the pasta when it’s cooked). When water is rapidly boiling add your pasta cook for 9-10 minutes (or until it’s cooked al dente). Save about a cup of the starchy water and strain the pasta. Add pasta to sauté pan with shrimp, garlic and spinach adding the water if you need to loosen up the mixture. Keep heat on low and mix until well incorporated.

After plating this ‘beaut I topped with red pepper flakes and as much grated cheese as I could get on the plate.

Pro-tip: Did you know that Orecchiette means “little ear” in Italian? Think about that next time you cook it – notice the shape.

Freshness is paramount…

My obsession with Trader Joes continues. The hubby is traveling so I took some time to shop and load up on fresh produce and all the products I love from this store. I don’t do a lot of carbs but I am now a bit obsessed with this flatbread. I used it last night for the chicken gyros I made (stand by for that recipe, it was great!) And used one this morning for avocado toast.

I love a super fresh avocado toast. I never order it in a restaurant because it always looks so sad and pale, like it came from a container. TJ’s had super fresh and perfectly ripe avocados yesterday. I like my guac a bit chunky so I roughly mash it, add onion, jalapeño, salt, pepper, and the juice from 1/2 a fresh lemon. I toasted my flatbread, topped with guac, feta cheese, and fresh San Marzano cherry tomatoes cut in half. I usually sprinkle a bit of either cayenne or red pepper flakes on top, but the jalapeño I had today was pretty hot and I didn’t need more heat.

Simple Yummy…

I’m back in the office now (good riddance COVID) so quick dinners after a long day are key now. This dish was so good and super easy to pull together. First, I love to use as few pots/pans as possible, so the order of my construction here is key. I start by sautéing the spinach in a bit of EVOO, a touch of butter, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper. After it’s fully wilted and cooked I removed it from my wok and placed in a bowl in my microwave to keep warm. After that I prepared my polenta using chicken stock instead of water – for added flavor. Polenta is a pain because it needs all of your attention (to avoid lumps & bumps). After slowly drizzling in all of the polenta to the boiling chicken stock I season with a little butter, salt, pepper, and mascarpone while constantly stirring for about 30 minutes on low heat until you end up with the desired consistency (we like it on the thicker side). Then back to the wok – I sautéed the butterflied shrimp (our fish monger had gorgeous tiger prawns that were huge). Before adding the shrimp I quickly sautéed minced garlic, diced fresh tomato and seasonings then tossed in the shrimp (or whatever protein you choose). When the shrimp turn pink they are cooked (time depends on size of shrimp).

To plate this gorgeous dish I put the polenta down first followed by the spinach and then the beautifully sautéed shrimp.
I added a garnish of fresh sliced avocado (only because I had it around).

Enjoy!

Slow and low kind of day…

There’s nothing easier or better than tossing a few ingredients (short ribs, one jar of Goya Sofrito and one jar of Goya Recaito) into the crockpot and letting the magic happen – eight hours on low.

Last night was short ribs over polenta preceded by antipasto on the patio and our go-to wine, Ghost Pines. Hubby making his cameo.