Saturday, August 27, 2011

Veggie Tacos

Last Sunday, I was craving two things: something vegetarian and something Mexican. Veggie tacos sounded like a good idea, so I did some Googling, and came across a recipe from Eat, Live, Run, a blog I've been following for a while now.

This recipe for Vegetable Soft Tacos with Chipotle Sour Cream provided the foundation for our veggie tacos. We didn't quite do everything the recipes calls for, and used some things we already had instead of buying new.

The second half of the ingredients list is where we went in a different direction. We followed the recipe to bake the veggies and beans, and then for toppings, we used used some romaine lettuce and sliced tomatoes we had leftover. We added some avocado slices and some shredded pepper Jack cheese (next time, I'd opt for a salty Mexican cheese--by the time everything was piled on, you couldn't even taste the pepper Jack).

I think next time I'd try the chipotle sauce, but would probably use plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, because I always have some on hand and I'm not much of a sour cream person.

Our version of these tacos turned out really good--there was a lot of good flavor, and despite there being no meat or protein, the tacos were really filling. Also, the recipe says it makes 3-4 servings, but our meal provided 5-6 servings!

Beer-Baked French Fries

As many of you know, Nate is a home brewer. He often tweets (@NathanAlesBrew, if you're interested) about beer trends, new beers and meals involving beer. It was one of these posts that caught my eye.

He posted this recipe for Garlic and Salted Beer-Baked French Fries, and I thought they would pair nicely with some buffalo burgers. The fries were really easy to make. The recipe suggests using New Belgium's Somersault beer, but anything is fine. We used a random bottle we had in the fridge: Scrimshaw, a pilsner, from North Coast Brewing.

The only thing I might do different next time is use garlic powder and/or garlic salt, rather than minced garlic. Many of the bits of garlic fell off the potatoes and burned.

If I remember correctly, we baked our fries for about 40 minutes. Unless they're really thick-cut, I don't think you'd want to bake them for an hour.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Salmon & Peach-Tomato Salsa

I picked up some wild salmon at Trader Joe's the last time I was there and had been keeping it in the freezer for future use. I remembered this Cooking Light cover recipe for Grilled King Salmon with Tomato-Peach Salsa from the July 2011 issue, and thought it would be a good one to make.

And it turns out it was. Super tasty, easy and healthy. I didn't use mint because I didn't want to buy too much and have it go to waste. Also, we only had two pieces of salmon, which were about 8 oz. each. We made the entire batch of salsa, though, and had it with other leftovers later in the week. Lastly, I didn't use grape tomatoes, but rather just regular, big tomatoes because we already had some. I think they worked fine, they just made the salsa a little more liquidy.

The only thing that didn't work so well with this recipe is that we overcooked the salmon, something we do too often. The grill was too hot, so the salmon was rather dry. But, with a lot of salsa on top, it was hard to tell it was overcooked.

I'd definitely make this recipe again, and I'd use the salsa for just about anything--including to just have with chips!

Vegan Burgers ... With Cheese

I love any kind of burger--beef, turkey, chicken, pork, black bean, veggie, etc. I often order veggie burgers in restaurants when I know they make them in house (I hate it when a restaurant just serves a warmed up Boca or Moringstar burger. Come on! I can do that at home). So I've eaten a lot of veggie burgers in my day.

I stumbled across these veggie burgers on food blogs I enjoy reading. I'm pretty sure I first saw the blogger from Iowa Girl Eats (I love her blog!) mention she had these burgers from the blog Oh She Glows.

The gal from Oh She Glows blogs only about vegan recipes. She came up with this recipe after experimenting with lots of different ingredients and ways of making them. I thought they sounded interesting, and I convinced Nate to give them a try.

It took a little effort to make--there are lots of little steps and things to prep--but they were definitely worth it. They were so tasty and incredibly healthy. Plus, the recipe makes a lot, so we had (and still have, in the freezer) plenty of leftovers.

I followed the recipe pretty closely, but did a few things differently or have some words of advice:

  • I was skeptical about the "flax eggs" (I didn't think it would actually bind everything together, but it ended up working really well. You could certainly use eggs, too, if you didn't need the burgers to be vegan.

  • I thought I could find oat flour at Outpost, but I couldn't. I ended up just putting regular oats in the food processor and making the flour that way. It worked great!

  • Instead of processing my own bread crumbs, I used 1.5 cups of regular bread crumbs mixed with some Panko breadcrumbs.

  • I highly recommend throwing carrots in the food processor to cut them up--grating carrots is a pain in the butt!

  • Surprisingly, the burgers formed pretty well. I thought they would fall apart like a lot of veggie/black bean burgers do, but these stayed in tact pretty well.

  • The recipe author suggests a few ways for cooking the burgers. We ended up pan frying ours, and it worked just fine.

  • The recipe authors says they make 8 burgers. I think I ended up forming 6 or 7 patties, and I think 8 would have been better. They don't look that big, but, man, are they filling!

Of course, we had to add cheese to our burgers, making them non-vegan burgers, but that's OK. I think they would be just as good without the cheese, too.

They were really, really good. I would definitely make them again.

Nate, Mr. Meat Eater himself, gave them two thumbs up, too!

Tater Tot Casserole

A few weeks ago, my friend (and neighbor and former coworker) Jessie gave birth to her adorable baby boy. I thought I'd whip up a casserole for them to keep in the freezer for a night when they were looking for a quick-and-easy home-cooked meal.

I found a recipe for Tater Tot Hot Dish in my Hot Dish Heaven cookbook that I thought Jessie, her husband and two-year-old would enjoy. Upon hearing what I was making, Nate exclaimed, "Aw, you make all the good stuff for everyone else!" (Whatever that means--although it probably means I'll be making it for us sometime in the near future.)

The casserole came together really easily. Jessie and family ate it a few weeks later, and she said it was good. She baked it from frozen for an extra hour, and said the only thing she'd do differently next time is broil it for a few minutes at the end.

Tater Tot Hot Dish

Makes 4 servings

  • 1 lb. regular or lean ground beef or ground turkey

  • 1 onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)

  • 2 cups (8 oz.) frozen vegetables, such as peas and carrots or mixed veggies

  • 10-oz. can cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup (I used mushroom)

  • 1/2 cup milk

  • 16 oz. frozen package of tater tots (so ... rereading the recipe, I notice it says "1/2 package." I most definitely used the entire package! So use anywhere from half the package to the whole package.)

Heat oven to 350*.

In a large skillet, brown meat and onion lightly. Spread in shallow 10x10 or 9x13 baking dish. Spread veggies over meat, making an even layer. Stir together soup and milk until smooth. Drizzle soup mixture over veggies. Arrange tater tots in a single layer over soup.

Bake 1 hour or until tots are browned.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Homemade BBQ Sauce

I finally did something I told myself (and Nate) I was going to do a long time ago--make homemade barbecue sauce. And now I'm left wondering why I didn't do it sooner! It's so easy to make, and you can do whatever you want with it, as long as you have a solid base.

I did some online recipe searching, and came across all sorts of sauce varieties. Some were too simple--combine Heinz 57 sauce and one or two spices? Nah, too easy! Others were a little more involved and the recipes suggested the mixture sit for a day or two. I didn't have that kind of time. Then I came across this recipe for Bourbon Whiskey BBQ Sauce. I knew that would be the one.

Sadly, I was mistaken that we had some bourbon sitting around. We didn't, but luckily, we always have at least one bottle of whiskey. I used some Kinnickinnic Whiskey from Great Lakes Distillery.

Other than that, I followed the recipe exactly, except that I added a bit more hot sauce, which, sadly, you couldn't taste at all.

The sauce was really very good. I was quite pleased with the way it turned out. I would use this again as a base and experiment with the flavors.

I know for future batches, I'll likely spice it up a bit more and add more liquid smoke. Also, it was a bit sweet for my taste, so I'd probably cut back on the brown sugar.

I think my days of buying barbecue sauce are over!