Weeknight Steak Tacos with Citrus Slaw

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By now if you have been reading any entries in this blog since March 2020, you know that like most Americans, I am quarantined at home and I am cooking a lot more than before. I made a vow not to order any takeout or delivery until the worst of this is behind us. I might make an exception for a holiday like Greek Orthodox Easter, but I’m not there yet. Also, I have been a terrible Greek Orthodox Christian, I have barely fasted at all this lent. In any case, I digress…

After nearly two weeks of not going to a grocery store, I am extremely limited on fresh produce. As explained in my post about smarter grocery shopping, I did have coleslaw mix (shredded cabbage with a touch of shredded carrots) on hand.

Corn tortillas are another one of those products that I keep on hand as they have a long shelf life, especially in the fridge. Overall, I prefer street-style soft corn tortillas over crunchy or flour tortillas, particularly for tacos (flour tortillas I feel are best for quesadillas). With a few more ingredients, I was able to put together some tasty and fresh-tasting Steak Tacos.

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Steak Tacos with Citrus Slaw – makes 6 tacos

For Steak:

  • 6-8 ounces Steak (ribeye, sirloin, etc all do), seasoned with salt and pepper and wrapped in dish cloth or paper towels to dry
  • Tajin Seasoning

For Slaw

  • 1 cup Coleslaw Mix
  • 2 tablespoons Chopped Scallions
  • 1/4 cup Orange Juice
  • 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 teaspoon Tajin Seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon Garlic Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
  • 1/4 cup Queso Fresco

For Tacos

  • 6 Corn Tortillas, heated (This can be done lightly brushing the tortillas with a very small amount of olive oil, wrapping in aluminum foil, and place in 350 degree oven for 5 minutes. Alternatively, you can heat the tortillas in a skillet in a bit of oil and wrap in foil until ready to serve)
  • Salsa Verde, optional (I like the Herdez brand)
  • Lime Garnish, optional

Heat a skillet on medium to high heat for about five minutes. Unwrap the steak and sprinkle both sides generously with the Tajin. Cook in the skillet for 6-10 minutes, flipping once, to desired temperature. Remove from skillet and set on a cutting board to rest.

In a medium bowl, add coleslaw mix and scallions. You can create a dressing on the side with the remaining ingredients (minus the queso fresco), or you can add them directly into the bowl. Mix the slaw and taste, adjusting seasonings as desired. Mixed in crumbled queso fresco.

At this point you may assemble your tacos. On two plates, lay 3 tortillas flat on each plate, not overlapping. Top each tortilla with about 1/4 cup of the slaw mixture.  Slice steak against the grain into thin (approx. 1/4 inch) slices. Add 2-4 slices of steak, top with lime and salsa garnish, as desired. Serve and enjoy immediately.

An American Classic – Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

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An American classic cannot be easier!

PANTRY TOMATO SOUP

  • 3 tablespoons Butter
  • 1 Onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Flour
  • 1 24 ounce can Tomatoes (can be crushed, whole, sauce, etc.)
  • 24 ounces water (use can to measure out while cooking)
  • 2 Bouillon Cubes (veggie, beef, and chicken all work)
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste

Over medium heat, melt butter and add chopped onion. Sautee until onions are translucent and start to soften, about 3-5 minutes. Add flour and stir to coat onions, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes and water, stir in boullion and season to taste. Simmer about half an hour. Transfer mixture to blender and blend until totally smooth. You can add cream or cheese to thicken, if desired.

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Poor Woman’s Wonton Soup

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Since becoming quarantined nearly a month ago I have not ordered takeout or had prepared food delivered once. One night in a moment of weakness I bought fried chicken from my local grocery store, and I broke out in hives. I think I have an underlying allergy to certain fry oils, but in our current corona-culture, it was enough to spook my very non-germophic heart.

My next few posts are going to get interesting, as I have not grocery shopped a single item since March 29. I’m craving certain foods, but I am determined to make them on my own, including Chinese takeout.

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This is by far a “semi-homemade” Wonton Soup with pantry and freezer ingredients. Store bought wontons, frozen scallions (chopped and frozen by me), frozen ginger (didn’t photograph well, so subbed powdered ginger in the pic), chicken bouillon packet, and rice vinegar.

POOR WOMAN’S WONTON SOUP

  • 1 packet Chicken Bouillon (or cube, or chicken stock or other broth)
  • 2 cups water (if not using prepared stock/broth)
  • However many wontons you want to eat
  • 1 teaspoon Rice Vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Ginger
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Scallions

Simmer all ingredients together until wontons are cooked through. I wish it was more complicated than that. For extra zing, you can saute and lightly the wontons in a bit of sesame oil before adding broth.

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Looks like takeout to me

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Served with a scallion pancake, another one of the few convenience items in my freezer

The Jiffy Chronicles – Spicy Cheddar Cornbread

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A couple of weeks ago I took stock of my pantry and pointed out several boxes of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix and their amazing versatility. Today I did my first quick recipe for Saturday morning brunch. The package directions for cornbread are fine, but it’s kind of boring. It’s so easy to doctor this mix up to something more interesting and even more delicious.

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The main ingredients in the cornbread – mix, cheese, chilis in adobo, and corn

SPICY CHEDDAR CORNBREAD

  • 1 package Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • 1 cup frozen or canned Corn
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 Chipotle Pepper in Adobo Sauce*
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10 inch cast iron skillet or 8×8 baking pan, set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, add muffin mix, cheese, corn, egg, and milk and mix thoroughly. Chop chipotle pepper and create a paste with a little bit of salt and pepper. Stir paste into batter. Pour batter into pan, bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick placed into center comes out clean. Allow to cool about an hour before serving.

*If you have never worked with Chipotle in Adobo- these are VERY spicy and a little goes a long way. Even if you’re into spice, I would not recommended more than one for this whole recipe – when you overdo it, the heat takes over and you lose flavor in the dish.

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Finished Cornbread

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Serving suggestion – great brunch accompaniment

 

 

Hot Fudge Brownie Sundaes

As highlighted in the video, this pantry project is an “oh, darn, I GUESS I’ll use these ingredients up.” Homemade hot fudge is embarrassingly easy to make and only requires a handful of ingredients. You can modify the recipe as you’d like – different types of chocolate, flavored liqueurs, salted or unsalted, etc. I only use 5 ingredients – chocolate, sweetened condensed milk, butter, espresso powder, and salt.

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For an indulgent treat –  layer brownie, hot fudge, ice cream, and toppings. My toppings include whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles

 

HOT FUDGE SAUCE

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 8 ounces chocolate (can use baking chocolate, chocolate chips, chocolate bars, etc)
  • 1/4 teaspoon espresso powder
  • Pinch of Salt

In a medium nonstick saucepan or nonstick saute pan, melt butter and heat sweetened condensed milk over low to medium heat – do not crank the heat on this recipe – ingredients can all burn easily. Stir in chocolate, espresso powder, and salt. Heat and stir until chocolate is fully melted and incorporated, about five minutes.  Sauce and be served immediately or cool and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

Chicken Meatballs Piccata

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I often have frozen chicken breasts in my freezer, as well as chopped parsley. Pretty much everything in this recipe are common staples in my kitchen, and many folks have in their kitchen. I often get bored of grilling chicken breasts or making them tenders, so I will grind the meat in my food processor and use it for ground meat recipes. You can freeze meatballs to use at a later time, and this is a super fast weeknight dinner.

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Chicken Meatballs Piccata

Makes 4-6 servings
MEATBALLS
1 pound ground chicken breast
1/4 – 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs, as needed
1 egg, beaten
Handful chopped parsley
I small onion, finely diced or grated
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Mix ingredients until fully incorporated, starting with 1/4 cup breadcrumbs. If mixture feels too wet, add a bit more. Shape into 1.5 – 2 inch balls. Arrange on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. Broil on high about 10 minutes, turning halfway through cooking for even browning. Set aside. Note – these can be done ahead of time and frozen or chilled.

PICCATA SAUCE
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 lemons, juiced, plus zest from one
1.5 cups chicken broth, warmed
Salt and Pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons capers, or more, as desired

SPAGHETTI
1 pound – cook to package directions.

GREENS
Greens – spinach, arugula, kale, etc – as little or as much as you want. You may also substitute additional vegetables for a more complete meal.

Mix lemon juice, zest, and broth. Heat until warm or hot, set aside. On medium heat, butter in saucepan and whisk in flour about one tablespoon at a time, until fully incorporated. Cook about 3-4 minutes, do not brown. Slowly whisk in broth mixture, a little at a time, sauce will thicken immediately. Cook 2-3 minutes, season with salt and pepper. Add capers and meatballs. Remove from heat.

For greens, heat a small amount of sauce and sauté until soft. To serve, arrange a serving of spaghetti in a bowl, top with sauce, some greens and then a few meatballs. Enjoy!

Hunkering Down – Smarter Food Shopping

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This morning over a “diner style” breakfast of eggs, bacon, and hashbrowns, my boyfriend asked me, “How are you able to have so much fresh stuff on hand to cook with? Aren’t you scared it’s going to go bad?” I told him I’m not.

Friends – it’s strategy. While in an ideal, healthy world it’s great to hit up the grocery store several days a week and get the freshest ingredients possible for you and your family, these are unusual times. All the warnings we have gotten the last couple of days is it will get worse before it gets better – this pandemic and the crisis in our area has not peaked, we could be weeks, probably longer, from leveling that curve. In Bergen County, New Jersey, where I live, we have the highest number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey, and we are only a few miles from New York City, which is currently the unfortunate epicenter of the pandemic. Our county parks have closed, and all the warnings heed staying home as much as possible, only go out if you absolutely have to.

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“Diner-Style” Breakfast – all long shelf life ingredients – eggs, cheddar cheese, bacon, and frozen hash browns

Part of staying healthy is following a healthy diet. You have the most control when you’re preparing your own food, and avoid processed ingredients as much as you can. This can be difficult when you’re stockpiling for days and ideally, weeks, but the good news it’s not impossible.

In addition to the hefty amount of items I currently house in my pantry, today I stockpiled fresh foods. I do not intend to go to a grocery store again for a couple of weeks minimum. The key to doing this is to choose items that have a long shelf life, or things that can freeze beautifully.

Don’t know where to start? Here are some of my go-to’s and how long they could last, if properly stored. This isn’t a comprehensive list of all the foods out there, but it can get you through several weeks and possibly even months without a grocery trip.

  • PRODUCE
    • Citrus fruits – 3-4 weeks
    • Butternut Squash – left whole, this will keep about a month
    • Onions and Garlic – about two months
    • Cabbage – several weeks up to 2 montns
    • Carrots – lasts 3-5 weeks
    • Cruciferous vegetables (Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, etc) – up to 2 weeks
    • Bananas – last about a week if “green” when purchased. Freeze well
    • Hearty Greens (Kale, Arugula, etc) – these raw veggies will usually last about a week to 10 days
    • When in doubt, buy frozen – especially berries as they are highly perishable. Plus frozen produce is almost always as nutritious as fresh
  • DAIRY
    • Organic milk – ultra pasteurized milk will last about two months
    • Hard Cheeses – parmesan, etc. can last for a couple of months
    • Yogurt – if unopened, can be eaten a couple of weeks after sell-by date
    • Sour Cream – similar to yogurt
    • Cream Cheese – months
    • Semi-hard Cheeses (cheddar, mozzarella, swiss, etc) – months. These also freeze well
    • Eggs – usually will last a few weeks after sell-by date. Try this water test to be certain of the freshness
  • MEAT
    • Vacuum-sealed meats typically have a much longer shelf life than what the butcher will cut and package for you. For example, I purchased a couple of ribeye steaks today that are vacuum-sealed has have a USE BY or FREEZE date of April 22. That’s nearly a month!
    • Poultry is typically more perishable than beef, pork, lamb, etc. If you’re not planning on using within 3-5 days, I suggest freezing until you’re ready to cook with it
    • Cured meats – bacon, ham, sausages, etc. naturally have a longer shelf life. Some will even last months and all typically freeze well
  • SEAFOOD
    • I avoid buying fresh fish and seafood if I’m not going to cook it within a day of purchase. If I find a sale, I may purchase and cut/portion out myself and wrap to freeze. I especially like to do this with salmon. I will take the fish out of the freezer when I’m ready to actually use it
    • Shrimp is something I almost always have in my freezer. In some water they take next to no time to thaw and also cook up super fast. Plus, in this country almost all the “fresh” shrimp you buy has been previously frozen, so just skip that and buy already frozen
  • BREADS/BAKED GOODS
    • I will typically bake my own stuff, but I don’t make sandwich bread. English muffins will keep for weeks in the fridge. I also really like rye bread in the fridge. Tortillas and wraps typically have a long shelf life (possibly months). Softer breads (white, whole wheat, etc), if you’re not going through them quickly, freeze well. Double check the shelf life. While organic can be better for you and have fewer preservatives, organic sandwich bread gets moldy FAST.

Bottom line – in these unprecedented times, don’t impulse shop. A little planning will keep you home safe for a very long time 🙂

 

Gluten-Free Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

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One thing I like to do as I am utilizing what is in my pantry is use up items I do not particularly care for, or I can’t quite remember why I bought it. I found a box of live Gfree gluten-free baking mix. Live Gfree is Aldi’s line of gluten-free grocery products. While I joke that enjoy a gluten-FULL diet, I particularly enjoy gluten-free pretzels – they have a nicer, lighter crunch than regular pretzels.

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Main Ingredients – all things on hand – previously frozen, thawed bananas, gluten-free baking mix, and a mix of chocolate and butterscotch chips

For the baking mix, I wasn’t sure what to do. Reading the recipes on the back, it was like Bisquick. With the pandemic looming I’m either by myself or with my boyfriend, so I didn’t want to make something like pancakes or waffles, it felt wasteful.

Rummaging through my supplies, I opted for a banana bread. Banana bread is one of those foods that is really the kitchen sink of breakfast or coffee pastries. You can throw in just about anything and it will still be good.

In my cabinet I had some loose chocolate chips and butterscotch chips mixed in zipper baggie together – a combination I often use in blondies. In my freezer I had about 3 frozen bananas – something I usually save for smoothies, but they looked like they were on their way out. Using up these ingredients, even if this didn’t work, I would not have felt bad trashing the banana bread.

GLUTEN-FREE BUTTERSCOTCH CHOCOLATE CHIP BANANA BREAD

  • 1 package live Gfree gluten-free baking mix (1 pound)
  • 3-4 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
  • pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x5x3 loaf pan, set aside. Mix mashed bananas with the baking mix, add remaining wet ingredients one-by one, forming a thick, but smooth batter. Stir in chips and salt. Pour batter into loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Be careful not to overbake. Remove from oven, allow to cool about 2 hours before serving.

Tips:

  • “Mix-ins” – can be flavored chips, nuts, dried fruit, etc., instead of the chocolate and butterscotch
  • I used a glass pan only because of what I had on hand. Any loaf pan will do, just double check baking times
  • For storage, the first night I wrapped in tea towels to keep loaf from drying out, but also to retain some crispiness on the edges. After the first night I wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in the fridge
  • When serving, warm a slice of the bread in oven or toaster oven – heat at 200 degrees for about 10-15 minutes. This tastes best when the chocolate is melty and gooey

The verdict? This banana bread was amazing! Gluten-free baking flours and mixes have come such a long way the last few years. I was also impressed with the ingredients in the package – all things I could pronounce and all natural – rice flour, sugar, baking powder, potato starch, salt, and xanthan gum. Also, if I followed a true gluten-free lifestyle, I could probably replicate this baking mix and make it in bulk. However, for its price point (less than $6), I think it’s fine getting the box mix.

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Gobs of melty chocolate had me drooling!

Other than a subtle grittiness from the rice flour, I could not detect a big difference in taste or texture from traditional banana bread. My boyfriend also said he only knew it was gluten free because I told him.

So, my apologies for referring to the mix as “this garbage” on my Instagram story before I actually used it. I was VERY wrong.

Rework Leftover Risotto – Arancini

Instead of making rice, cooling it, seasoning it, etc, for arancini, why not take a shortcut to enjoy this deep-fried deliciousness sooner? The asparagus risotto from last night was left over and it already has so many of the ingredients you would use if you’re making arancini from scratch – rice, cheeses, seasonings, even some vegetables. While I normally have seen it made with peas, who is stopping me from making an asparagus version?

LEFTOVER RISOTTO ARANCINI

  • 2 cups risotto
  • 3 eggs, divided, beaten
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • 1/2 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 1 cup bread crumbs, either Italian seasoned or you can season your own
  • Peanut oil or other high heat oil for frying
  • Grated cheese and tomato sauce for serving, optional

Mix the risotto with one beaten egg. Scooping about 1/4 cup at a time, cup the risotto in one hand and fill with a couple of tablespoons of cheese. Wrap the rice mixture around the cheese until no cheese can be seen, forming a round ball. Lay out shallow bowls or dredging trays – fill one with the flour, the other with the remaining eggs, and the third with the bread crumb mixture. When all the balls have been formed, dredge in flour, dip in the remaining egg mixture to coat, and then toss with the bread crumbs, being sure to coat the entire arancini. You may place in the fridge to cool for a little while, about half an hour, or you may freeze to fry at a later time.

Coat a heavy bottomed or cast iron pot with about 3 inches of oil. Using a candy/deep fry thermometer, heat the oil to at least 350 degrees, but do not exceed 380 degrees. When oil is ready, take arancini out of fridge or freezer, drop in the oil 2-3 balls at a time (do not overcrowd the pot – you want to fry, not steam). Fry about 5 minutes, turning halfway, until the arancini is a deep golden brown. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels. When ready to serve, dust with a bit of grated cheese and have warm tomato sauce for dipping on the side.

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Asparagus Risotto with Lemon Broiled Shrimp

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Dinner tonight was utilizing one of my boyfriend’s favorite vegetables, asparagus. What’s nice about this dinner is that it can be made in about 45 minutes. It took me a bit longer as I also prepped some banana bread.

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Some old wine from the fridge, asparagus I wanted to use that was still fresh, frozen shrimp, and arborio rice from my pantry

Staying true to my project, all food was things I had on hand. Risotto is one of those foods that is very forgiving – you can almost always add more liquid and ingredients beyond the 1:3 ratio of rice to liquid.

ASPARAGUS RISOTTO WITH LEMON BROILED SHRIMP

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced fine or minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 3 cups water, broth, and/or wine (I used 1 cup wine and two cups water, plus bouillon packets)
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced (set aside zest and about 1/4 of juice)
  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and chopped in bite sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • Shrimp, thawed and trimmed – about 3 ounces per serving
  • Olive oil, as needed

Melt butter and heat oil over medium to high heat in a large saute pan. Add onions and garlic, sweat until translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add rice and saute another minute. Stir in liquid and 3/4 of lemon juice and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Lower heat to a simmer and cover pan. Cook the rice until tender, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If rice mixture feels too thick and difficult to stir, add a bit more liquid, ideally water or broth. Stir in asparagus and cook until it starts to soften but not totally tender (asparagus will continue to cook when rice is removed from heat) – about 3-4 minutes. Stir in cheeses and half the lemon zest and blend until cream cheese is fully incorporated.

Meanwhile, lay the shrimp on a foil-lined baking sheet. Brush the shrimp with olive oil and sprinkle both sides with salt, pepper, and lemon zest. When you’re ready to serve, broil on high about 5 minutes, flipping the shrimp about halfway through cooking. Remove from broiler and pour remaining lemon juice over the shrimp.

To serve, scoop about a cup to a cup and a half of risotto into a bowl, arrange a few shrimp on top.

TIP – Risotto can be leftover and reheated. Ideally, make shrimp when you are ready to eat.

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