Monday, April 30, 2012

Taco Night

Cinco de Mayo is coming up, and being a household of Mexican food lovers, we have quite the lineup planned for this week. We had enchiladas one night, are planning stuffed poblano peppers one night, making burritos and margaritas next weekend, and last night was taco night.

Matt and I always used to say we couldn't wait until we had kids so we could have Taco Night once a week. I'm pretty sure I could get used to having tacos every Monday night.

I've been making tortillas my whole life. One of my mom's good friends grew up in New Mexico, and she taught me how to make tortillas the old fashioned way when I was just a kiddo getting babysat at her place. But, I've only ever made flour ones. For tacos, you gotta have corn tortillas, so we decided to make our own the other night. This looks like a long process, but I promise it really is easy, and it's fun!

First, make your dough.

It's literally just corn flour, water and salt. We used the same corn flour I used to make the tamales a few weeks ago. It smells heavenly when you mix it with water.

Then, form the dough into balls.

Put the ball of dough in between two layers of wax paper, then take a big pan and smash it. 

Then press down a little more until it gets nice and flat. The tortillas should be about 5-6" in diameter.

Then cook the tortillas on a dry griddle or pan for about a minute on each side.

Now here's the cool part. You can eat them at this point and just fold them in half on your plate, or you can use Matt's patented taco trick to make them hold their shape.

Just fold them in half and set them inside a cooling rack until they cool. Such a great little trick!

I ate my tacos just like this, but if you really want to amp up the flavor (and naughtiness) of taco night, you can fry 'em up. There's a great little taco place in Puerto Rico called Happy Burger, and they fry their tacos on a flat top before serving them. They are amazing.

Matt wanted to eat his tacos "Happy Burger" style, so he heated the griddle up on high heat, added a little canola oil and then fried the tacos on each side until they were crispy. I had a bite of one of them, and honestly they were out of this world. When you fry them, the tortillas puff up and get crispy at the same time, and you also get a nice crust of fried cheese all along the edge. Um, yum. 

But honestly, they are perfectly delicious un-fried as well. I ate mine happily stuffed with Gardenburger crumbles and topped with all the fixings.

Chopped romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, shredded cheddar cheese (shredded by hand, of course - the bagged stuff doesn't hold a candle!) and homemade guacamole. I make my guac really simply with just lime zest, lime juice, garlic powder, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and chopped cilantro. 

We also each had a generous spoonful of Matt's homemade salsa verde.

Tacos are good any which way you make them, but if you've never tried making homemade tortillas, give them a whirl!

Homemade Corn Tortillas

Makes 12 tortillas

2 cups corn flour
1 3/4 cups water
1/4 tsp. salt

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. The dough should be moist and soft and form balls easily; if dough is too try, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time until it comes together.

Form 12 equal sized balls of dough and cover with a damp towel while you work. To form the tortillas, put one ball of dough between two sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper (one sheet on bottom, one sheet on top), and press down firmly on the dough with a large pan. The tortillas should flatten out to about 5-6" in diameter.

Heat a griddle to 350 degrees, or heat a skillet over medium heat. Cook the tortillas for about 1 minute on each side; they should be cooked through, but not brown. They may be eaten at this point, or folded in half while warm and left to cool in a cooling rack; if desired, stuff the tortillas and then fry them in a small amount of canola oil for about 1 minute on each side, until crispy and golden brown.

Productive by Day, Taco Eater by Night

Happy Monday morning! I hope you all had a great weekend.

Yesterday ended up being one of the most productive Sundays I've had in a long time. I crossed almost everything off my to-do list, and it felt great! We spent the morning cleaning up the house and getting some yard work done, and then spent the afternoon running errands.

A lot of times we take Butters with us when we run errands since he just loves being out of the house, even if he has to sit in the car. When he sees us packing up to leave, he starts getting frantic and running around in circles by the front door, so I just can't bear to leave his sad face at home. Instead, we leave his sad face in the back of the car looking after us longingly as we go to each store. I'm pretty sure he stays in that exact position waiting until we come back.

When we got home, I got to work on prepping some lunches for the week. One thing I'm really looking forward to is my quinoa salad. I'm hooked on this stuff!

I made a batch of quinoa using vegetable bouillon, and when it was cooked I stirred in a couple handfuls of fresh spinach, a few sundried tomatoes and some fat free feta cheese. It's so good. I made a few containers of it so I have it for the week, and I can't wait to dig into it for lunch today.

For dinner, we had these...

Tacos! More on these later. We made our own corn tortillas and they were awesome.

After dinner we took the crew on a short walk around the neighborhood. It was nice to just relax and get some fresh air after a really busy day.

Riker looks like he's sizing me up and doesn't trust me one bit, doesn't he? Love that face.

Off to start the work day!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Catching Up

Weekends are the best.

Friday night was spent eating comfort food and watching movies. Matt had a school event during the evening so I was on my own for dinner. I didn't feel like being too creative and it was already 8:00, so I went with an old classic. Pasta broccoli "Adam Hegarty style." Anyone who's ever had dinner at Adam's knows what I'm talking about. winking0019.gif

I made a bowl of whole wheat rotini with a little olive oil, a lot of garlic, broccoli and parmesan cheese. Perfect for a Friday night watching Bridesmaids. When Matt got home we stayed up late watching Just Go With It on HBO. We'd never seen it before and it was pretty funny!


Breakfast yesterday morning was easy and delicious. I toasted two Van's Light waffles and topped them with natural peanut butter, banana slices and a drizzle of Vermont maple syrup. I didn't have any fresh bananas on hand so I used one from the freezer, and surprisingly it was really good. The cold/hot combo was awesome and the frozen banana slices were so creamy.

After breakfast, we spent a lot of the day catching up on our to-do list since we were away the last few weekends. We had to take Maui to the vet for her annual shots, go grocery shopping and take care of other fun household things. When we got home we were starving, so Matt whipped up some sandwiches for lunch. I filled my toasted whole grain bread with lettuce, tomatoes and one slice of Havarti dill cheese (a forgotten favorite!). We had celery sticks dipped in fat free ranch dressing on the side.

After being productive all day, I had fun plans for the evening! Matt went for a night bike ride with some of his buddies (he ended up joining me later in the evening as you can tell by the picture below), and I went to my friend Lindsay's house for a little BBQ. I haven't seen my girlfriends for a few weeks, so I was so excited to hang out and catch up. It's always a good time with these ladies!

Lindsay and her fiance Ryan were housesitting at her parents' house, and we had no problem taking over their bar for the evening. I brought Riker with me and just put him to bed at Lindsay's house after he ate his dinner. He's such a trooper.

I started the night off with a glass of Spanish garnacha I picked up on my way over, which was really good. Smooth and mellow with a hint of black cherry.

We also nibbled on a bunch of snacks while we chatted, including some caprese skewers I made.

These were so simple to make. I've made them a few times for various parties, but this time I stacked them a little differently and I think they came out prettier. I simply took a large basil leaf, nestled a small cherry tomato and buffalo mozzarella ball inside it, and then stuck a toothpick through the whole thing. Then I drizzled them all with olive oil and salt and pepper. If I were serving them at my house I would've added balsamic vinegar as well, but I didn't think the vinegar would travel well and would make the mozzarella brown by the time I got there, so I left it off.

Lindsay and Ryan put out a great spread for dinner, and I helped myself to a little of everything.

I had a Gardenburger topped with cheese, sauteed peppers & onions and ketchup, and a small spoonful of red bliss potato salad, macaroni salad and veggie salad. A fun little Saturday night, for sure!


Today will be spent running more errands, finishing up the housework and getting things ready for the work week. Gotta get a move on!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Black Bean & Corn Enchiladas with Salsa Verde

The other day I came home from work to find these guys coming out of the oven.

Black bean and corn enchiladas with Matt's homemade salsa verde. Yum!


Matt makes salsa verde pretty often, and I have to say his version is really good. I'm not usually a fan of the stuff, but Matt's has a really nice tang with a hint of heat and I've grown to love it. Rather than baking the enchiladas with a typical red sauce, he topped the tortillas with a combination of hot sauce and salsa verde, and they were perfectly moist and full of flavor.

We use low-carb tortillas to make our enchiladas, and we stuff them with beans, corn and LightLife Vegetarian Chik'n Smart Strips so they're full of protein and low on fat and calories. Cheese is a must of course, but we find that a sprinkle on top does the trick so we don't add cheese to the filling. You could of course make these with just the veggies, or you could add grilled chicken or ground meat, and you could always add cheese to the filling if you like. Really anything will work!

 A little sour cream never hurt anybody either. ;-)

Black Bean & Corn Enchiladas with Salsa Verde

Serves 4

8 8-inch tortillas (We use Tumaro's Low in Carbs Tortillas)
2 small onions, chopped
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
6 oz. chicken or vegetarian chicken strips, optional (We use LightLife Chik'n strips)
1 can corn
1 can black beans (do NOT rinse)
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. Adobo seasoning
4 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup salsa verde (recipe below)
Hot sauce, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Saute onions with garlic powder over medium heat with cooking spray until soft. Add chicken/chik'n strips and cook for about 5 minutes, until cooked through. Add corn, black beans, cumin and Adobo seasoning. Mix completely and continue cooking until all ingredients are heated through. Take mixture off heat and set aside.

Evenly fill each tortilla with the filling, then roll the tortillas up, leaving both ends open. Pack into baking dish tightly enough so enchiladas are all touching. Cover the enchiladas with salsa verde and a few dashes of hot sauce, then sprinkle the cheese evenly over top. Bake for approximately 10 minutes, until cheese is melted and tortillas are warm.

Serve with extra Salsa Verde and sour cream.

Salsa Verde

Makes about 3 cups

1 onion, chopped
10 tomatillos, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 jalapeno, chopped
Zest and juice of 1 1/2 limes
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
Salt, to taste

Add onions, tomatillos, garlic and jalapeno to food processor and pulse until mostly smooth, but slightly chunky. Transfer mixture to a pot and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool. Add lime juice, lime zest, cilantro and salt and pepper.

Salsa may be kept in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container for about two weeks.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Husband of the Year

Hello, friends! It's been 4 longs days since I've had a chance to post, and I have a lot to share with you. I'm back to working in the city full time, and I'm still trying to get a handle on my new schedule. I actually started a new job on Monday, and while I certainly had my share of anxiety starting with a new firm after five years with my last company, it's actually been really fun getting to know my new coworkers and learning the culture of a whole new place. So far, I love it! I miss my little Riker a lot, but once I'm up to speed in my new role I'll have a more flexible schedule and will be able to be home earlier in the evenings to see him.

In the meantime, Matt is earning the Husband of the Year Award. He cooks, cleans, does the laundry, washes the bottles, takes care of Riker and does the daycare drop-off and pick-up. All after working an 8 hour day. Seriously, I am so thankful for him. Here's a peek at some of his creations and what we've been up to this week!

Breakfast for dinner! Sweet grits, vegetarian "sausage" (it looks kind of gross, but is really tasty), and toast with homemade orange marmalade.

Kashi Go Lean toasted oats and a chocolate banana smoothie = my breakfast of choice this week. I like this because it's an easy breakfast before I have to run out the door at 6:00. The night before, I put the cereal in the bowl and the protein powder in the Magic Bullet, so they're both ready to go the next morning.

Low-cal coconut shrimp with coconut mango rice. Ooooh yeah. This was delicious. We make our coconut shrimp by mixing half Fiber One cereal (crushed up) and half unsweetened coconut flakes together, then coating the shrimp and baking them in the oven. The idea was inspired by a Hungry Girl recipe I read years ago. The mango were super sweet and tender, and melted right into the rice.

One reason I love working in the city? Hale & Hearty! They have the best chopped salads. I ordered my lunch time fix filled with veggies: lettuce, broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, sundried tomatoes, edamame, chic peas and fresh mozzarella with fat free balsamic dressing. This is a salad that keep you full for hours.

That looks like a smoothie, doesn't it? It's actually homemade baby food! Riker is eating cereal and fruit now, so I want to make my own food for him rather than buying the jarred stuff. This week he's eating bananas, so I blended up a bunch of frozen 'nanas with a little water and packed the puree into baby food containers for the week. Easy! And tasty, I might add. I actually think I'd eat this for dessert - it tasted like banana sorbet.

Another salad - this one for dinner. Matt made big bowls of salad one night to use up a bunch of veggies we had in the crisper. He topped them with some chopped up Boca Burgers and then tossed them in a homemade dressing we're trying to recreate based on a Hollyhock dressing we had in Vermont. It was pretty good, but nowhere near the real deal. Gotta keep working on this one 'til we get it right.

Enchiladas! Need I say more? These babies were both healthy and full of cheesy satisfaction. The recipe is coming your way tomorrow. :)

How was your week?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Creamy Lemon Pasta with Spring Veggies & Basil Shrimp

Today was my first day back to working in the city. It was great, but long! It's 8:30 and I'm just getting home...that commute is no joke. Until I get adjusted to this new schedule I probably won't be able to post as much about my day-to-day eats and activities, but I'll be back to regularly scheduled programming soon. ;-) In the meantime, I surely won't neglect to post about delicious meals like the one we had last night!

When I made the meals list for the week, I knew I wanted to make some kind of lemon pasta with veggies. Last night I played around in the kitchen and came up with this recipe, which is just what I was looking for.


Over the last few years I've seen a number of lemon pasta recipes on the Food Network, but they're always made with heavy cream, butter and lots of cheese. Of course! Naturally I wanted to make a much lighter version of the dish, and honestly, if you add the right thickeners and seasonings, skim milk really does work just fine. The sauce had so much flavor that we didn't even add parmesan cheese on top, and I always want to sprinkle a little extra parm on my pasta.

I used broccoli, cherry tomatoes and pea pods, but you could easily substitute any veggies you like or happen to have in the fridge. I loved the cherry tomatoes because when you cook them slowly in the milk, they turn super sweet and burst in your mouth when you bite them. My mouth is watering just remembering the flavor! You could also sub out the shrimp for chicken or pork. Or just omit that altogether for a vegetarian meal. The sauce is really the crux of this recipe, after all.

Side note: I actually didn't have any fresh basil on hand and this tasted great without it. I added it to the recipe, though,  because I would definitely have included it if I had some in the fridge. Lemon and basil are perfect pals.

Creamy Lemon Pasta with 
Spring Veggies & Basil Shrimp

(Adapted from Lemon Fusilli with Arugula by Ina Garten)

Serves 2

Ingredients - Pasta
4 oz. whole wheat pasta
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. salt 
1/2 tsp. pepper
Zest and juice of 1 1/2 lemons
2 cups fresh broccoli florets
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
1 1/2 cups fresh pea pods
2 cups skim milk
2 Tbsp. Wondra Quick Mix Flour (if you don't have Wondra, just substitute corn starch, but you may need to add more)
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup basil leaves, torn (optional)

Ingredients - Shrimp
2 oz. shrimp
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Cook the pasta according to package instructions. When the pasta has about 5 minutes of cooking time left, add the broccoli florets and cook them together with the pasta. Drain and set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook until softened and slightly brown. Add milk, salt, pepper, lemon zest and tomatoes, and increase heat to bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for about 5 minutes, until milk begins to reduce. Stir frequently to avoid burning. Then stir the quick flour or cornstarch into a little water (just enough to make it into a paste) and then add it to the milk; stir with a whisk, then let continue cooking a few more minutes until sauce begins to thicken. Once sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon,    add parmesan cheese and garlic powder and stir to combine. Then add lemon juice, pea pods, and cooked pasta and broccoli. Stir to combine. 

To make the shrimp, pat the shrimp dry and coat them with the basil, salt and pepper. Cook them in a pan coated with cooking spray over medium heat about 5 minutes, until pink.

Divide the pasta between two bowls, then top with shrimp and torn basil. Serve and enjoy!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Connecticut Family Day

Yesterday turned out to be a great day with the fam. Not that I expected anything less! We took our time getting going in the morning, and it was really nice to just lounge around and catch up for a few hours.

After a while, we all headed out to enjoy the beautiful weather. Matt and Butters went mountain biking for a few hours (that dog can burn energy like no other) while my dad, his girlfriend Darlene, Amanda and I did a little shopping. Around 1:30 we all met back up at a local pub & restaurant, Plan B Burger Bar, for lunch.

We thought we would beat the lunch crowd by getting there early afternoon, but this place was jamming and we had a 20 minute wait. It was well worth it! The place had a really good vibe, our server was really friendly, they had a great beer selection, and the food was all organic, humanely raised (for the meat eaters), and incredibly tasty.

A few of us ordered beers (Matt and I can never resist ordering beers when a restaurant has such a huge selection on tap), and our server was kind enough to offer me samples of the three different brews I was trying to decide between. Thank goodness, because I ended up choosing the one I thought I wouldn't like - a BBC River Ale. It was slightly sweet, very smooth and perfect for a sunny day.

Soon after we started sipping our drinks, this arrived...

Oh baby. Our appetizer was called "Blue Chips," and it was a pile of house made crispy chips covered with crumbled blue cheese, tomatoes, jalapenos and red onions, then topped with a blue cheese sauce and crumbled bacon (bacon on the side in our case since I can't eat it). This was definitely not on the heart-friendly list, but wow was it good. We figured we could splurge if we split it between 5 people. :)

For my entree, I ordered the salmon burger on a whole wheat bun, and I subbed out the fries for a salad instead. Glad I made that choice after eating all those chips and blue cheese! 

The salad was really fresh and flavorful, and the burger was by far the best salmon burger I've ever tasted. It was sushi grade salmon so could be cooked to temperature, which is always a good sign. It was so tender and full of flavor, especially topped with pickled red onions. I ended up taking off the bun and just eating the salmon with the veggie toppings. 

Great meal with the family!

After lunch my dad and Darlene got on the road to head back to Vermont, and the rest of us decided to soak up the sunshine by spending the remainder of the afternoon at the park near Amanda's apartment. Ah, relaxation.

We were pretty spent by the time evening rolled around, so we decided to hang out at home in our pj's and fall asleep watching movies on the couch. Great night!


We headed back to NJ this morning in the rain, and now I'm playing catch-up to get things in order for the work week. I'm starting back in the city tomorrow morning, so early mornings are on their way. Catch you tomorrow!