Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Labor Day

I came up with a new sandwich using random ingredients in the fridge. It's called the Labor Day because it was born on, well, Labor Day.

Large tortillas, about the size of your skillet
Feta Cheese- about 1/4 cup
Green onion, diced
Sliced tomato- enough to cover half of tortilla
Sliced or chunked chicken breast
Crushed red pepper and black pepper to taste

Pam the skillet, lay down the tortilla, top half the tortilla with ingredients in the order they appear above. Fold over, flip when bottom is toasted. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Green Dragon Salsa

Salsa is really easy to make and it's worth the effort. You can make combinations you like, it's fresh and you can impress your friends. I don't have a set recipe for this one either, but I have a combination of ingredients I like to use. I call the my Green Dragon salsa because, well it's green for one, and it's hot- to the point you breathe fire. You can take out the jalapenos if you like, for more of a Green Non-Fire-Breathing Reptile Salsa.

The following ingredients will make about 30 oz (two fair sized jars) worth of salsa. It will keep in the fridge for a week or so. I'm not sure exactly how long, but it doesn't have preservatives in it, so I'm sure a week maximum is good.

10 tomatillos
2 Poblano peppers
1 Green Bell pepper
1 Hungarian Wax pepper
2 jalapenos
3-4 limes, juiced
1/4-1/2 yellow onion
1-2 garlic cloves
1/2 bunch of cilantro

Directions: Peel off paper-like skin off tomatillos, rinse and cut in half. Place tomatillos (cut side down) and all peppers on a cookie sheet. Set oven to broil and place rack in top 1/3 of oven. Place sheet in oven and check after 3-5 minutes. You want to roast these well, the blacker the better so that the skin comes off nice and easy. Once blackened (it may take longer than 5 minutes) flip peppers and blacken the other side.

While this is happening prepare a bowl full of ice water. Once ingredients are done roasting you want to place them in the ice water to shock them and cool them down. Let them sit for a few minutes when you're able to pick them up bare handed. Peel skin off peppers, removing stems and seeds. Peel outer layer of tomatillos as well. These can be a little tricky seeing that they are already cut in half, but they should hold together while in the ice bath. Place in a blender. Toss in onion, garlic clove, cilantro (stems are okay) and lime juice. Blend it up. Salt to taste. You can add some olive oil too for a little thicker consistency.

Wallah, green salsa. It's great for dipping chips, topping fish tacos or sauteing chicken or pork for a little carnitas. I'm telling you, it's versatile. It's even good to add to the skillet when scrambling eggs for some juevos rancheros.

Tips: If you don't like so much heat you can leave out the jalapenos and substitute in Anaheim peppers for the Hungarian wax. They have nice flavor and they're green. Onion and garlic add lots of flavor, but they also add lots of burps. So if you don't want to be tasting this salsa for days, stick to the 1/4 onion and one garlic clove.

When shopping for tomatillos, most still have the papery skin still intact. Check to make sure worms or bugs haven't gotten to them by peeling back the paper a tad. If you forget to look inside the packaging, you may end up with unusable tomatillos, and they're the real star of the salsa. They add a nice tang that is the main characteristic of green salsa.

Play around with it and have fun. You'll never want to buy salsa again.

Fish Tacos

One of my favorite things to make (and eat) is fish tacos. I don't really have a recipe, but I'll explain how I make them.

Fish: I like to use a white, flaky fish like Tilapia. It's usually cheaper than other fish, but you can use halibut, salmon or whatever you like. I usually season it with salt, a little pepper and lime juice. Sometimes I'll use a little creole seasoning like Tony Chachery's. If you use the creole seasoning, or any other packaged seasoning for that matter, it contains salt so you won't want to salt the fish and use the seasoning.

The fish can be prepared anyway you like, but its nice to get a good browning on it so I grill it or broil it in the oven. Broiling fish is really handy because it doesn't drip through the grill or get stuck to the grill. You don't have to worry about it stinking up the house like you would pan searing the fish, but pan searing is quick and easy too. Grill or broil for about 7 or 8 minutes and then check it for doneness with a meat thermometer or by touch. It should be flaky but moist and bounces back when you touch it.

Slaw: Fish tacos have to have slaw. You can use pre-packaged shredded lettuce, green cabbage or a mix of both. Cabbage holds up better with the sauce though. I mix to taste with 1 part sour cream and 1 part ranch and some lime juice (3 or 4 limes). If you can find jalapeno ranch, try that for some heat. I can't find it anymore in my local market, but you can always chop up 1/2 jalapeno without the seeds for heat. Mix this together while the fish is cooking.

That's it. You can top with salsa or pico de gallo if you like, but I don't like to over power the flavor of the fish and the slaw. I prefer flour tortillas, but use what you like. These go great with the beans and rice listed below. Enjoy.

Traditional Black Beans

This is a base recipe I use when we make Mexican food. It pairs really nice with Spanish yellow rice. I don't usually follow the recipe exactly, but throw in some variations of my own, but this will get you started.

1 Tbs. Olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup diced tomato (you can use a can of diced or stewed tomatoes also)
1 can black beans, drain and reserve juice
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon garlic salt
3 Tbs. cider vinegar

Pair with 2 cups cooked rice, Serves 4

In large skillet heat olive oil, cook onion and green pepper until crisp and tender. Stir in tomatoes, beans, thyme and garlic salt. Cook 3 minutes, add vinegar, and reserved juice. Continue to cook 5 minutes. Serve over rice.

Tips: I usually double the recipe (two cans of beans to one can of diced tomatoes). I also use chopped garlic, cumin and oregano to taste. It comes out a little different every time because I usually wing it, but the base ingredients make a good combination. Adding lime juice also adds nice flavor as well. A couple limes usually do it. Of course you can add other types of peppers if you want to heat it up a bit, like a Hungarian wax or Poblano. I also usually let the beans simmer for longer, which allows them to break down. A little mashing creates more of a refried bean consistency. It's great with chips, rice or as a burrito. Enjoy.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Korean Style Beef Bowl

This recipe is nice because there's no need to marinade the meat far in advance and there is very little prep, but the taste is dyn-o-mite.

Steak and Marinade

2 Green onions with tops, divided
1 lb skirt steak
2 garlic cloves, pressed
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 Tbsp sugar (I prefer brown)
1 tsp vegetable oil

Rice and Vegetables

1 cup uncooked jasmine rice
2 medium carrots
2 cups bean sprouts

1. For steak and marinade, thinly slice green onions and save about a table spoon for garnish. Place the rest in a bowl or whatever you are going to marinade the meat in. I like big ziplock bags, its easier to make sure all the meat gets sauced.

2. Cut steak crosswise into 2 inch pieces. Slice each piece into thin strips, against the grain. Add these to the bowl or bag. Press garlic over beef. Add soy sauce, sesame oil, black pepper and sugar; mix well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

3. As beef marinates, microwave rice according to package directions. Really you can prepare anyway you like, but I always microwave my rice. I cannot get it to come out right on the stove top. We have pyrex dishes with tops that have a little steam hole, which we use to steam everything. This type of dish works really well, and the jasmine rice we buy only takes fifteen minutes or so in the microwave. 

4. For the veggies, peel the carrots; discard skin. Continue peeling carrots to make long ribbons and place in ice water until ready to serve.

5. To finish steak, add some oil to a skillet (vegetable or olive); heat over medium-high heat 1-3 minutes until shimmering. Add beef and marinade to the skillet. Try to get a single layer to cook evenly, 2 minutes undisturbed. Stir; cook another 3-4 minutes or until beef is no longer pink. Remove from heat.

6. Remove rice from microwave, fluff with fork. To serve, divide rice among bowls and serve with beef, carrots and bean sprouts. Garnish with green onion.

Yields: 4 servings

Tips for steak: Skirt steak is labeled a cheap cut of meat, but it is expensive where we live. It must be gaining in popularity. I usually will use whatever steak cut is cheapest, but skirt steak is worth the extra little bit when using it for this or fajitas. Be sure to cut against the grain or it will turn tough. That goes for any steak, but especially skirt steak which has a lot of connective tissue to begin with coming from the bottom of the cows belly. Do NOT overcook it or it will turn tough very quickly. It's okay if there is some pink left, trust me- you do not want to overcook the steak.

Tips for marinade: This marinade is really flavorful and thickens a little to make a nice sauce when cooked. You probably do not have sesame oil on hand, but it is worth getting. Trust me, you'll want to use it again for this recipe and most asian recipes use it so you'll have reason to expand your horizons. I've played around using some other ingredients. I use brown sugar, but the last time I cut back on the sugar and added some molasses. It wasn't as sweet but had a nice flavor.

Tips on rice: If you haven't had jasmine rice, you will like it. It's lighter and fluffier than normal rice, cooks quickly and doesn't have that minute rice texture. Trust me, you do not want to substitute regular white or brown rice.

Tips on bean sprouts: I've only used bean sprouts for this recipe. They seem keep for a day or two in the fridge, so pick them up the same day or day before making this recipe. After a couple of days they get kind of slimy, okay, really slimy. They are fine if you rinse them off really well, but who wants to touch slimy bean sprouts.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Spiced Braised Beef with Sweet Potatoes

It's been months since posting anything. Here's a nice slow cooker recipe that doesn't take much pre-preparation.

hands on time: 15 minutes | total time: 4 1/2 to 8 1/2 hours (depends on your crock pot)| serves 6

1 1/2 pounds beef chuck, cut into chunks
2 sweet potatoes (about 1 pound) cut into 1/2 inch thick half-moons
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes (you can use canned diced as well)
1 large red onion, cut into wedges (I only use a half, otherwise it takes over the dish)
1/2 cup dried apricots (I used these once, but didn't like the texture or flavor so you can leave them out)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
Kosher salt
1 10 oz. box couscous (1 1/2 cups)
1 15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed
2 cups baby spinach (1 1/2 ounces)
1/4 cup roasted almonds, chopped

  • In a 4 to 6 quart slow cooker, combine the beef, potatoes, tomatoes (and their juices), onion, aprictos, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup water.
  • Cook, covered, until the meat is tender, on high for 4 to 5 hours, or on low for 7 to 8 hours
  • Ten minutes before serving, prepare the couscous according to the package directions.
  • Add the chickpeas to the slow cooker and cook until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the spinach. Serve with the couscous and sprinkle with almonds
It comes out kind of like a stew, so you'll want lots of couscous. I've made this recipe twice and cooked the potatoes two different ways. The first time I followed the recipe, which is very good. Today I tried something different and made mashed sweet potatoes instead for a different texture. It's great either way, but I think I like the mashed potato style. I know Jaclyn preferred it that way. I just added a tablespoon or so of sour cream, a little brown sugar and salt. You could probably leave out the brown sugar and still get the nice sweetness of the potato with the savory beef and sauce.

I like this recipe for the combination of flavors. It's got mediterranean feel with the cinnamon and ginger with the tomatoes and beef. You could even add some nutmeg to really put it over the top. The addition of the chickpeas sounds a bit strange, but it works. 

Like a mentioned, we did not like the apricots. They do not soften up that much leaving a weird texture and they turn quite bitter which ruined the sweet and savory blend that the recipe is supposed to feature. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Southern Apple Crumble

This recipe comes from Betty Crocker


3 cups apples, peeled, coarsely chopped  (3 cups) I would use 4 1/2 cups because it is super sweet otherwise
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces


1 pouch (1lb 1.5oz) betty crocker oatmeal cookie mix
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Heat oven to 300F. Spray bottom and sides of 8-inch square glass baking dish with cooking spray.  In large bowl, toss filling ingredients.  Spread mixture in baking dish.

In same bowl, stir cookie mix and melted butter until crumbly.  Sprinkle over filling.

Bake 40 min.  Remove from oven; sprinkle with pecans.  Bake 15 to 20 minutes longer or until topping is golden brown.  

Yum yum

Feta Spinach Salad

Sorry its another feta recipe.   This is my new go to salad, its quick and easy and super yummy.

1/2 pkg. spinach
1/2 pkg. garden mix
2 red apples sliced and dipped in lemon juice
feta cheese
sliced almonds

For a dressing you can use a vinaigrette or just oil and vinegar.

Mini Greek Meatballs

I am all about having quick, easy and healthy recipes and this is one of them. It is from the South Beach Cookbook.  

1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 small onion, minced
1/2 cup finely crumbled feta cheese
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large egg
1 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for baking dish
1 tbs. dried oregano
1 tbs plus 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 400 F
Combine beef, onion, cheese, garlic, egg, 1 tbs. oil, oregano, vinegar, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl.  Kneed to combine, being careful not to overmix.
Lightly oil, a 9-by 13-inch baking dish.  Shape meat mixture into 40 (1 tbs.) meatballs.  Place in a single layer in the baking dish and bake until cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes.  Serve hot.

(I usually serve with couscous)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Turkey Gyros and Yogurt Sauce

This is a quick, healthy and flavorful recipe that captures a little taste of Greece. 

28 minutes; serves 4

1/2 small onion
2 Tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 lb. lean ground turkey
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
2 tsp olive oil
4 flat pita bread rounds (I like the ones without pockets)
sliced cucumber and tomatoes

Yogurt Sauce
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 garlic cloves pressed
1/8 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup fresh cucumber, finely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 500 F. Mix the following gyro ingredients: garlic, onion, parsley, turkey, thyme, salt and black pepper. Mix until well blended.

2. Add oil to skillet and heat over medium-high heat for 1-3 minutes. Form turkey into four thin, rectangular loaves, about 1/4 in. thick. Cook 1-2 minutes on each side or until browned. Place skillet in oven and bake 6-8 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165 F and loaves are no longer pink in the center.

3. Meanwhile prepare sauce by combining yogurt, garlic, salt, parsley and chopped cucumber.

4. Microwave pita bread 30-60 seconds. Slice cucumbers and tomatoes.

5. Remove turkey from oven. Thinly slice lengthwise. A bread knife works well. Arrange over pita and top with yogurt sauce, cucumbers and tomatoes.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Taqueria Style Carne Asada

This is a nice taco meat recipe with lots of flavor. Top with whatever you like, but sour cream with a little lime juice complements it very well. It also works well with the home made tortillas. The combination of oregano, cumin and paprika is common mix in Mexican recipes and is one of my favorites. It's even a nice addition to black beans to use on rice.

  • 3 pounds flank steak (or whatever is cheapest)
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 lime, juiced
  1. Lay the flank steak in a large glass baking dish. In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, 4 cloves of garlic, juice of two limes, and olive oil. Season with salt, black pepper, white pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, oregano, cumin and paprika. Whisk until well blended, then pour over the steak in the dish. Turn over once to coat both sides. Cover with plastic wrap, and marinate for 1 to 8 hours.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together 1 chopped white onion, cilantro, and the juice of 1 lime. Set aside to use as a relish for the tacos.
  3. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cut the marinated flank steak into cubes or strips. Cook, stirring constantly, until the meat is cooked through and most of the liquid has evaporated. (Remember that cubed or stripped steak doesn't take long to cook and get tough so waiting until liquid evaporates may be too long in my opinion)


If you are feeling adventurous, you can try making your own tortillas using this simple recipe. I admit I've only tried this once and tortillas take a lot of rolling to get them thin. A lot mine were thick and it's almost like eating a taco pastry. I'm thinking of investing in a tortilla press, which makes the process much easier. Also note that it doesn't take long to cook a tortilla. If you cook it too long, it will break apart when you try to roll it. If your skillet or griddle is hot enough the recommended time below may be too long.

Like I said, tortillas take some practice but its fun to try at least once.

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup hot water

  1. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Either by hand or with a pastry cutter, cut in the shortening till the mixture is crumbly. If the mixture looks more floury than crumbly, be sure to add just one or two more tablespoons of shortening till it is crumbly. Add about 3/4 cup hot water to the mixture, or just enough to make the ingredients look moist.
  2. With your hand or a large fork, knead the mixture making sure to rub the dough against the sides of the large mixing bowl to gather any clinging dough. If the dough still sticks to the side of the bowl, add a couple more tablespoons of flour until the dough forms a soft round shape. The dough is ready to roll out now, but it is best to let it rest. Cover it with a dish towel, and let it sit for about an hour or so.
  3. Take the dough, and pull it apart into 10 to 12 balls. Lightly flour your rolling area, and roll each ball with a rolling pin to about 1/8 inch thickness.
  4. Place each tortilla on a medium hot cast iron skillet. Cook for about 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until the tortilla does not look doughy.

Skirt Steak with Pepita Sauce

This is a very simple and fresh recipe. We tried it today in fact and were very pleased. It comes from Real Simple magazine. A nice yellow rice would go great with it or a simple chips and salsa.

Time: 20 minutes
Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds skirt steak (any thing works, I used London broil because it was on sale)
salt and black pepper
8 tortillas
1/2 red onion, finely chopped (I usually use cut down the recommended amount of red onion)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/4 cup pepitas (these are roasted pumpkin seeds with a nice toasty, nutty flavor)
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice

The recipe says to broil the steak, but I grilled mine on a quick gas grill

Heat broiler. Season steak with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper and place on a rimmed broilerproof baking sheet. Broil to the desired doneness, 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let rest at least 5 minutes before slicing. (This is important so the meat soaks up the juices)

Warm tortillas however you like. Surprisingly the package has directions, in case you forgot how.

In a medium bowl, combine the onion, cilantro, pepitas, oil, lime juice and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Serve with steak and tortillas.

Word Up

Tales from the Home Skillet. This blog will be used to share recipes tried, tested and approved in our kitchen. My interest in blogging about current events has dwindled and food has always been a favorite of mine. I've said before that it would be great to be a successful economist, but my dream job would be food critic.

Most recipes will be tested by yours truly. You see, I do the cooking in our house. Not that Jaclyn isn't great at it, I just enjoy it more and it is a nice way to relax on the weekends (during the week, not so much). It's our little arrangement- she balances the check book and I do most of the cooking. It works out nice because of my minimalism (okay cheapness). Otherwise we'd be using oscillating fans instead of A/C for example.

We like simple fresh recipes of Mexican or Mediterranean flavor, so that's mostly what you'll see but we'll mix it up. I've already added a few as you can see, to get the ball rolling.