TACO TUESDAY!

March 4, 2014

Tacos - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

Margaux says…

We love tacos around here.  Really really love them.  Especially since it’s become my son’s favorite food, and, well, if you have a toddler, you know how important that is.  Since Desi turned 3.5, he went from eating everything we gave him to becoming vegetarian and not eating much of anything at all.  We’ve come a long way from there, and luckily we have a kid that has never disliked vegetables, even through the tough eating times.  But he’s still pretty picky now, and won’t eat much of what I make anymore.  So we have back-ups in our fridge for nights that he won’t eat what I make for the rest of us: veggie dogs, taco and quesadilla fixings, cooked noodles and tomato sauce…you get the idea.  Kid stuff.  In the meantime, we have tacos as a family pretty often.  Almost once a week.  And when we saw The Lego Movie, we thought “Taco Tuesday” sounded pretty awesome.  Because, you know, “EVERYTHING IS AWESOME.”

I’ve been making my own taco seasoning ever since I discovered the recipe in my Joy of Cooking that Aunt Suzy gave me back in 2001.  I never loved the super salty McCormick packets that we always used before, and was super excited in my early cooking years to discover how easy it is to make yourself.  I almost always have taco seasoning stuff on hand, and it takes less time to make the meat and/or beans part of the tacos than it takes to prepare everything else.  Now that we have a vegetarian in the family, I make meat for us and season a can of black beans in almost the same way for him, basing it on this fabulous recipe that we posted about last summer.  I also almost always make homemade guacamole, because Desi decided he only likes avocados in that form anymore (we used to just put chopped up avocados on our tacos).  I use this recipe because it keeps longer and tastes better with all the lime juice in it.  I also make pico de gallo (recipe below) instead of just plain chopped up tomatoes.  It’s better that way, and then we can eat the leftovers the next day on tortilla chips for an after-school snack.  Our other fixings are shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, sour cream, taco sauce (not really needed, if you ask me…but hubby and son love the stuff), and black olives.  I know, it’s weird, but it’s what I grew up putting on my tacos, and one of the reasons Desi loves tacos so much.

We have a few other taco recipes here, because I think Aunt Suzy loves tacos, too.  Maybe not as much as Desi, though.  🙂

Chipotle Chicken Soft Tacos
Fish Tacos with Avocado Slaw and Chipotle Sour Cream
Fish Tacos with Lime Guacamole and Cabbage Slaw
Fish Tacos with Black Bean Salsa
Braised Greens and Onion Tacos

Aunt Suzy says . . . 

YES, we love tacos up here in the Northland also! A few comments:  We often do veggie tacos with seasoned beans, but Randy also makes the taco filling with Tempeh as a substitute for the meat. He breaks it up into small chunks and toasts it in a skillet with a little oil and whole cumin seeds to get it crispy. This helps it keep its shape and texture when added to the sauce with seasonings and onions. We also like diced zucchini and shredded carrot with these traditional style tacos. We often serve doctored up refried beans as a side. So Margaux . . . does your family like soft tortillas or crispy taco shells?  For us, corn is a must – no flour tortillas for these – and we go back and forth on soft or crispy!

Margaux says..

We like soft tacos…corn and flour.  I always buy both, and we all have a couple of each.  I almost never buy hard shells, mainly because I never think of it!  I’m sure Desi would love them.  I’ll have to remember next Tuesday!  🙂

Ground Beef, Chicken or Turkey for Tacos

adapted from Joy of Cooking

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 medium red onion, minced
1 lb ground beef, turkey or chicken
1-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
Pinch of anise seeds, slightly crushed
salt to taste
1 cup tomato sauce (one small can)
minced fresh jalapenos, other fresh chili peppers, or chipotle peppers in adobo

1. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, and cook, stirring often, about 4-5 minutes.
2. Increase heat to medium-high and add the meat. Cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 3 minutes.
3. Stir in the garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, anise and salt. Cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds, until fully incorporated and fragrant.
4. Add tomato sauce and minced peppers. Cook, stirring occasionally, over low heat for 10 minutes.

Pico de Gallo

Seed and chop 2-3 Roma tomatoes, 1/4 red onion, and cilantro. Seed and mince half an jalepeno. Mix all in a small bowl together, with a squeeze of lime juice.

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Chipotle Chicken Tacos

Aunt Suzy says . . .

My blog partner and I are looking for uses for leftover chicken or turkey these days, something we seem to regularly have on hand from roasting or stewing a chicken. . . or maybe buying a rotisserie chicken.  I was looking for a chicken enchiladas recipe last week and was on The Homesick Texan blog when I ran across this taco recipe.  It attracted me because it doesn’t use cheese, a ubiquitous ingredient in enchiladas, and looked unbelievable easy to make, which it was.  It’s one of those recipes where you throw all the ingredients into a blender, heat the blended sauce up and then add chicken.  What could be simpler?  Oh, and did I mention these tacos are delicious and fun to eat?   We served with amped-up Spanish rice and orange-avocado salad.   Both the taco and Spanish rice recipes make a lot, so I’ve been enjoying for lunch.  I think you could also freeze both of these for future meals.

Making the chicken in chipotle sauce

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 small can diced tomatoes with juice

2 chipotle chiles en adobo (from a can), rinsed

1/4 medium yellow onion, cut in chunks

4 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

pinch of ground allspice

1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves

1 tablespoon lime juice

2 tablespoons canola oil

Salt and black pepper to taste

About 4 cups cooked, shredded chicken (from stewed or roasted chicken)

Place all ingredients up to the canola oil into a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Place the canola oil into a medium saucepan on medium heat.  Once heated, add the blended sauce.  Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered for about 10 minutes, until it is a little darker and thicker.  Add the chicken and stir to coat and blend and then keep on a medium burner until heated through, about 10 minutes.  Ready to assemble!

Assembling the tacos

Corn or flour tortillas (I recommend corn)

Lime wedges

Diced white onion

Fresh cilantro, chopped

Other favorite toppings – maybe avocado, tomatillo salsa, radishes, etc.

Place tortillas in foil and heat in the oven at 300 for 5 or so minutes until warm.  For thin tortillas, you will want to use 2 per serving.  Otherwise, for each taco, place chicken on a tortilla, top with your fave toppings and squeeze a little lime over all.

COOK’S NOTES:   I just noticed on The Homesick Texan that she says 4 servings.  4 servings!!  That would be for people who are going to eat 5 tacos per person :-).  I think this makes enough chicken for at least 20 tacos given how many we’ve eaten and how much chicken is left.

This recipe could be made kid-friendly with no or 1 chipotle pepper, then adults could pass the hot sauce.  If you omit the chipotle peppers, I recommend you add 1-2 teaspoons smoked paprika. We like to use sprouted corn tortillas from Food for Life. They are thicker, healthier, GF and have an intense corn taste.  For the chicken, you can use an entire stewed or roasted chicken or chicken parts.  I roasted 2 fairly large breasts and 4 legs (all bone-in/skin-on) and they were the perfect amount.  To shred, I just pulled/broke the meat apart with my hands.  You can also do this with 2 forks.

Aunt  Suzy says . . . .

I’ve been on the lookout for summer sandwich ideas beyond the usual BLT and burgers on the grill.  Not that I don’t like those, but variety is the spice of life after all!  This sandwich was inspired by a recent NY Times “Recipes for Health” recipe.  I made a few adaptations – I thought this called out for a pita pocket vs. the english muffin specified in the recipe, for example.  The sandwich uses the bounty of summer so if it looks good to you, don’t wait till the season is over to make it!

Yield: Two sandwiches.

2 tomatoes

1/2 cucumber, peeled and sliced in half moons

1/2  red onion, cut in half-moons

1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

A squeeze of fresh lemon juice + plus 1/4 teaspoon white or red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 pita pockets, whole wheat recommended

Crumbled feta

Hummus, flavor of your choice

Slice one of the tomatoes and set the slices aside.  Dice the other tomato, removing seeds and extra juice.  In a small bowl, combine the diced tomato, cucumber, onion and mint.  Stir in the lemon juice, vinegar and olive oil.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place the pita bread in foil and heat in a 350° F oven for about 5 minutes until warm.  Cut the pitas in half and open the pockets.  Spread the bottom of each half with the hummus.  Place a slice or two of tomato on top.   Top with the tomato mixture and then add the feta cheese.  Yum!


Aunt Suzy says . . .

If you read our blog, you know how much we love cooked greens!  Even as a greens enthusiast, when I saw this post on a favorite blog, Green Your Plate, I thought it sounded like an odd use for cooked greens (even if it was adapted from a Rick Bayless cookbook)!  However, the recipe showed up on the very day that my neighbor gave me a big bunch of young kale.  Plus I had a bag of turnip greens leftover from a recent batch of Turnip Risotto and a pretty large piece of  leftover cooked salmon in the fridge.  Since I had everything on hand except the tortillas, I felt the cosmos was conspiring for me to make these!   Randy and I both agreed that we would make this recipe again . . .  maybe often.  These tacos are a great weeknight meal option, taking less than 30 minutes to prepare.  You’ll see in the notes on the ingredients that there’s lots of flexibility in types of greens, tortillas and salsas, so you can utilize what’s available at the market and on hand in your pantry.  Randy had a Pilsner beer and I had a glass of Sauvignon Blanc – both good matches.

If you like greens, I recommend browsing through Green Your Plate  – Amy has several recent posts about the wonderful greens that are available at our farmer’s markets throughout the season, along with a recap of a demo she did at our main farmer’s market on cooking with greens.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 bunches greens (spinach, beet greens, Swiss chard, kale, turnip greens or collards)

2 medium onions, thickly sliced in half moons

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno pepper, minced

Water, as needed, up to 1/2 cup

Zest of one lemon

1 cup crumbled feta or queso fresco

Cooked salmon, chicken, Spanish chorizo or andouille sausage, optional

6 medium flour  or 10 corn tortillas

Salsa for passing

NOTES ON THE INGREDIENTS: 

Greens – If using tender or young greens, leave them whole.  If using tougher or more mature greens, remove the center ribs and chop into 2-inch pieces.  Swiss chard stems can be cut into 1/2-inch slices and sauteed along with the onions.  Tender greens will cook in 1-2 minutes and likely not require water other than that left on the greens from washing.  Tougher greens will take longer – up to 10 minutes for mature collards – and will need more water.

Tortillas – I recommend flour tortillas for bitter greens (kale, turnips, collards) and corn tortillas for sweeter greens (spinach, beet tops, chard).

Optional Fish/Meat – The salmon was delicious with the bitter greens and I think the chorizo or andouille would work with them also.

Salsa – I recommend smokey chipotle salsa for the best match for bitter greens.  I would use a lighter, fresher salsa for sweet tender greens – maybe even a pico de gallo.

Instructions

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and cook, stirring constantly, until they begin to brown, but are still fairly firm.  Add the garlic and jalapeno pepper and cook for another minute.  Add the greens a little at a time and stir to wilt.  Add the water if using tougher greens – I used about 1/3 cup for the kale and turnip green combo.  Turn the heat down to medium and cover to cook till tender, but not mushy.  This took about 6 minutes for the kale/turnip greens.  Remove the lid and turn up the heat to cook off the liquid.  Add the lemon zest and remove the pan from the heat.

In the meantime, warm the tortillas in foil in the oven.  To assemble the tacos, place a little of the greens/onions mixture on a tortilla.  Top with the cheese and fish or meat, if using.  Pass the salsa.

Aunt Suzy says . . . .

This is a delicious casual meal for any occasion that’s a lot of fun to cook and serve for a crowd.  Think football playoffs!  My brother and I cooked these great pita sandwiches last Sunday and served them with a number of Mediterranean items – hummus, roasted chickpeas, olives, tabbouleh and Corfu salad.  We waited till half-time of the Bears-Seattle game to serve -my niece, Katie and her cousin make it clear who we were rooting for!  Good meal, great game outcome!  (Go Bears!!) Many sides work with these sandwiches and a peppery Cotes du Rhone or California Syrah works really well.

This recipe is comprised of several components – sauteed onions, red pepper-date relish, sausages, feta cheese – that can be assembled into the pita pockets to individual tastes.  Randy likes to substitute hummus for the feta and these can be made vegetarian by omitting the sausages.  These can also be served as appetizers on toasted regular (non-pocket) pita wedges, omitting the sausage. The amounts specified here served 7 people.  All quantities are adjustable to your taste and number of people.

The Onions

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon EV olive oil

2 white onions, sliced

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan or skillet.  When shimmering, add the butter.  When the butter is melted and bubbling, add the sliced onions.  Saute on medium-high heat stirring constantly until beginning to brown – about 10 minutes.  Turn the heat down to medium and continue to cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until soft and golden.  Set aside.  NOTE: I heard about a technique for slicing the onions that minimizes the stringy membranes.  Cut the onions in half length-wise and then slice in that same direction – from top to bottom rather than across.  Yellow onions can be substituted for the white.

The Pepper-Date Relish

3-4 roasted red peppers, sliced in lengthwise strips (about 1/4″)  and then in half

1/3 cup chopped dates

1-2 tablespoons poppy seeds

2-3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

2 tablespoons EV olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

The Sausages/Assembling the Sandwiches

8 sausages – lamb, merguez or flavorful chicken sausages

1 1/2 cups feta cheese, in chunks or crumbles

8 pita pockets, whole wheat recommended

A NOTE ON THE SAUSAGES: If you are near a Whole Foods, brother John discovered delicious lamb sausages from New Zealand in their freezer section – flavored with Sofrito.  Some Whole Foods have fresh lamb sausage.  I use either fresh-made merguez Moroccan lamb sausage or lamb-blueberry-pine nut sausage, both from Clancy’s Meats in my neighborhood – definitely worth a trip for you Twin Cities residents.  We also use some of the fully cooked, highly flavored chicken sausages found at places like Co-ops, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

DIRECTIONS: Cook the sausages according to directions till just done, but still juicy.  If it’s warm out, you can grill on either a gas or charcoal grill.  Cut into smallish pieces on the diagonal. Cut the pitas in half and wrap in foil and heat in the oven till warm.  To make the sandwiches, place the onions, sausages, red pepper-date relish and feta into a pita pocket half.  Enjoy!

Aunt Suzy says . . .

This sandwich recipe for leftover turkey is a yummy departure from the norm of turkey and cranberry sauce sandwiches.  I received this in my weekly email from The Splendid Table, but the original came from Ellie Krieger whose recipes are always tasty and healthy!   This Greek salad in a pita pocket is easy to prepare and delicious to eat.  You could easily add other Greek salad staples such as red onion, Kalamata olives and tomatoes, but it’s really good exactly as prescribed.  If you don’t do dairy you can substitute your favorite hummus for the feta spread.  And don’t even consider skipping the mint – it’s what brings all the other flavors together!  This recipe serves 4 people with one sandwich each or 2-3 with healthy appetites.

The Feta Spread

3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (4 ounces)

3 tablespoons nonfat plain yogurt

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon dried oregano

freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine the feta and yogurt in a small bowl, mashing any large chunks of cheese.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.  (This spread will keep in the fridge for about a week.)

The Sandwich

4 whole-wheat pita pockets

4 large romaine lettuce leaves, torn in half or fourths

1 cucumber, peeled and sliced

1/4 cup mint leaves

3/4 pound sliced cooked turkey

To make a sandwich, cut a pita in half to form two pockets.  Warm the pita wrapped in foil in the oven for a few minutes before this step if you like.  Line each pocket with half a lettuce leaf. Spread 2 heaping tablespoons of feta spread into each pocket. Then fill each pocket with about 6 cucumber slices, 4 or 5 mint leaves, and 2 or 3 slices of turkey. Serve immediately or wrap in foil to go.

Sloppy Joes – The Best!!

November 22, 2010

Aunt Suzy says . . .

My friend Karen introduced me to the Joy of Cooking recipe for sloppy joes several years ago, and they became an instant staple in our household!  I don’t think I had thought of nor made sloppy joes in decades.  This recipe is adapted, but only slightly.  I usually make it with a combo of white and dark meat ground turkey.  I always substitute Pickapeppa Sauce for Worcestershire – either works, but don’t leave this out!  I think the combo of chili sauce and one of these savory sauces is what makes this recipe stand out.  I like serving sloppy joes with cole slaw, which provides a crunchy contrast to the sweet, spicy and juicy sandwiches.  This is good with a beer, ale or a nice Zin.  Margaux, what sides and drinks do you serve this with?

Margaux says . . .

We first had this while visiting Aunt Suzy…and when she told me we were having sloppy joes for dinner I couldn’t believe it!  But it is fantastic, and it quickly became a staple in our household as well!  I usually use ground beef for it, but have also used ground turkey.  And I serve it with cole slaw as well, and have also served it with homemade home fries.  We always drink beer with it!  One of our favorites this time of year is Goose Island Harvest Ale.

Aunt Suzy says . . .

I hadn’t thought to mention it before seeing Margaux’s comments, but I often make sloppy joes for supper when I have family visiting.  It’s not a fancy meal, but one that definitely falls into the comfort food category and is easy to make ahead of time.  Takes the focus off of meal prep and onto enjoying the visitors!  And it’s nice to have on hand for a supper or lunch during holidays. 

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion, small dice

1 medium red bell pepper, small dice

1 celery stalk, small dice

1 carrot, peeled and small dice

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried (optional)

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

2 pounds ground turkey or beef

3/4 cup chili sauce

1/2-3/4 cup water or dark beer

3 tablespoons Pickapeppa or Worcestershire sauce

Hot sauce to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

This recipe makes enough for about 8-10 sandwiches.

Place a large frying or saute pan over medium heat and coat with vegetable oil.  When hot, add the vegetables (except the garlic) along with the thyme.  Turn the heat up a little and saute until soft and just beginning to brown.  Add the garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes till fragrant.  Remove all from the pan and wipe with a paper towel.   Put the pan back on a medium high burner, add the meat and brown breaking it up as it cooks.  It’s recommended to cook the meat one pound at a time so that it browns instead of stewing.  Remove the meat from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain of grease and liquid.  Wipe the pan again and put the meat and vegetables back in over medium heat.

Add the chili sauce, the water or beer, the Pickapeppa or Worcestershire and hot sauce.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Turn up heat to bring to a bubble, then turn down and simmer for 15 minutes.  This is delicious immediately and especially good after sitting for a day or two!  Place on sandwich buns (toasted or not!) and serve with scallions or grated cheese if you wish.